A mental health advocate from Lincoln, who was named in The Lincolnite’s 30 Under 30 for 2021, was proud to achieve another accolade after winning a NK Community Champion award.
Thomas Dunning, 30, is the inspirational face behind Mental Health Runner, a project born from his experience surviving multiple suicide attempts and psychosis, as well as his bravery to share his story.
After the pride of being named in The Lincolnite’s 30 Under 30 for 2021 , Thomas was delighted to win his NK Community Champion award. Due to work commitments he was unable to attend the ceremony on November 10, so his dad Lea collected the award on his behalf.
Thomas told The Lincolnite: “I was completly shell shocked to be honest. It’s nice to have the recognition and a well done for the things I’ve gone out there and done because it’s something I’m so passionate about, but when it’s someone in your local district who has nominated you for this award it just hits home how much of an impact one man can have in helping others health, fitness and well-being on this scale.
“2021 will defiantly be one to remember! I’ve never set out myself or as “mental health runner” to be award winning or receive any specific commendation. It always has and will always be just doing things which I think would have helped me when I was back in the darkest point of my life.
“All I want to be able to do in my later years is to look back and be able to say either “I did that” or “at least I tried”.
His messages of hope and recovery have travelled worldwide and led to the First Steps Forward programme. The scheme, co-founded with his wife Amber, supports marginalised and disadvantaged individuals to access exercise as a tool for mental health recovery.
Thomas and Amber also co-authored a book called “Surviving the war against yourself” and he works tirelessly to promote open conversations about mental health.
One of his most recent projects is Operation Samaritan, which he runs with volunteer runners on Instagram. Over 2,000 laminated tags with details of the Samaritans, along with an inspirational quote, have been distributed across the UK and Ireland to help prevent suicide.
He also runs Run Talk Run, which is a weekly 5km jog for all abilities, and a confidential space to share your good days, bad days, or anything in between.
There will be a special event held from 4.30pm on November 23 at the University of Lincoln’s Skål Tipi. Thomas will be giving a talk and Brooks Running UK will be attending with some trial shoes, before a 5km run around campus and a social afterwards.
Thomas said: “It’s been a year of firsts with the first steps forward programme – the first of its kind in the UK, and Operation Samaritan starting as a passion project which is now across the UK and Ireland.
“I’ve been doing things like this for three years so who knows, all I know is it’s still just the beginning and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.”
When asked what the future holds for him, he added: “I really have no idea in the slightest and I think that’s the beauty of it. There isn’t really any end goal to what I’m doing so it could take me anywhere!
“Right now I am continuing with Mental Health Runner and doing what I can to help others and their mental health, still progressing to go around the country giving talks and workshops and hoping to go abroad again with it very soon!”