Lincolnite of the week: Thomas Dunning – Running through mental health barriers

One in four people experience mental health issues in their lifetime and that means three others can help, according to Lincoln runner Thomas Dunning.

The 27-year-old battled with his own mental health problems following the loss of his brother, Will Bonner, in 2009.

Thomas told The Lincolnite that when his brother first passed away he kept his mind distracted on other things, including getting a new job at British Sugar in Newark where he still works as a process technician.

Thomas Dunning, 27, suffers from mental health issues and has battled through some tough times. Photo: mental_health_runner Instagram

He said: “I put it to the side and bottled it up and after my apprenticeship and studies finished I started hearing things, mainly my brother as if he was there.

“My wife suggested seeing someone about it as I was smashing things at home and I saw a doctor the next day, who signed me off work for a year with an initial diagnosis of bi-polar disorder.

“After a lot of therapy and psychiatric appointments, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, PTSD and borderline personality disorder.

“The best thing you can do is talk to people. 48% of the UK population would rather turn to google than their GP for a diagnosis and that I really want to change.”

Thomas wants to use his own experiences and running to help other people suffering with mental health problems. Photo: Joseph Verney for The Lincolnite

‘How running changed my life’

Thomas’ signature running shoes. Photo: Joseph Verney for The Lincolnite

Thomas said running has been “massively important” for him as he picked it up as a way of helping with his mental health issues.

He admitted that at first when he was at his heaviest weight he could only do a mile or so, back in 2015, but now he finds it “breathtaking and refreshing” and says it grounds him to keep things in control.

Thomas was 23 stone back in July 2017 and by March 2018 he had lost eight stone.

Thomas lost eight stone in just eight months. Photo: Thomas Dunning

He now runs three times a day, each time just over a mile, with his main route starting at PureGym in St Marks, which he attends, before going around the University of Lincoln Campus along the way.

Sometimes he likes to listen to music while running and he admitted that “Stop by the Spice Girls is my power song”.

Thomas ran the Lincoln 10K in July 2018 and has already entered marathons in Dublin and Liverpool for 2019. He has also entreated the ballot for the 2019 London Marathon and is waiting to hear back.

Mental Health blog

Thomas started his Instagram page with friends at the start of 2018 @mental_health_runner and in June he created his blog page which has 892 followers and people can contact him via the page to share experiences and ask for advice.

He added: “I wanted to give back to the mental health charities that did lots for me and kept me alive.

“I felt the stigma of being not normal and want others to read my blog and get support from it and to motivate and inspire others to take up physical exercises to battle mental health. It’s okay not to be okay.

“I escape suicide attempts and to know using something like running can help people feels amazing. I want to thank the CMHT at the hospital, all the doctors at Cliff Villages Medical Practice, my manager and colleagues at British Sugar and my wife for their help.”

The future

Thomas is currently doing work for American charity 5K Her, doing 5K a day and posting it on Instagram to raise awareness for Suicide Awareness month, which is currently happening in USA this month.

Another charity in America, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) are also supporting Thomas and he he’s helping to share stories.

Thomas is also one of 10 people in the upcoming TEDx talk in November where he’ll be telling a story that hasn’t yet been on his website.