Walker for mental health visits Lincoln

Photo L-R: Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation’s Creative Arts Coordinator Terry Overton, Chief Executive Chris Slavin and Tony Russell | Photo: Kelly Moore for The Lincolnite

A campaigner for mental health awareness has completed the Lincoln leg of his national walk on Thursday, April 14.

Tony Russell is walking from Bechkham, Kent all the way to Newcastle to raise awareness for mental health issues and money for charities Combat Stress and Breakthrough.

In Lincoln, Russell first visited NHS Lincolnshire in Bracebridge Heath, before heading down the hill to City Square with members of the Trust.

Twenty-five years ago, Russell did a similar long distance walk across England and Wales, visiting football clubs.

After suffering from mental health issues himself, he decided to do the walk again between mental health services.

As well as the NHS supporting him, works of art produced by mental health patients of the Trust were on display, and one piece was presented to him (pictured).

Walker Russell said: “It’s the 25th anniversary of when I walked 2300 miles, so I decided to do another one. This time I’m doing a walk to raise awareness about mental health issues, but also to highlight how art can work as a therapy.

“About twenty years ago I had a breakdown, so I started to campaign for mental health services.

“When I was first submitted to a psychiatric unit, one of the things that shocked me was I thought that they could make me better with a tablet. Then you realise that actually it’s not as easy as that and you have to find ways of coping.

“My way of coping is art and campaigning. When I go through depressive episodes I find myself wondering ‘what’s it all about?’, so I decided to call my walk that.”

MP Support

“Most importantly, I’ve been lobbying MPs all the way to try to get politicians thinking about mental health issues more seriously.

“My biggest highlight (so far) was when we were in the House of Commons and while we were being shown round, all the MPs we passed had their picture with us and allowed me to give them information about mental health.

“We wrote to Karl McCartney and he was very supportive,” he added.

There were times that Russell found quite daunting as well as the highlights however.

“The start in London was very stressful because I kept losing the backup vehicle and walking between Leicester and Lincolnshire I got a bit of wind and rain,” he said.

“Another highlight is that Lincoln is the first place I have been where the chairman and chief executive of the Trust have walked with me as well.

“When you’re on your own walking can be really boring, so today’s event has been fantastic — they’ve made a really big effort and I appreciate that.”

You can support Tony and see the rest of his journey at Breakthrough Art.