“I stood up, I told [my partner] I loved her and I went into the garage and tried to hang myself.”
This was the day Thomas Dunning made multiple attempts to end his own life, after battling with mental health problems.
Since then, Thomas fell in love with jogging and said it completely changed his mindset and the way he deals with his mental health, reports Lincolnshire Live.
Now, Thomas is also known as the ‘mental health runner’ and is hoping to break the mental health stigma.
He’s part of a running club where people are encouraged to talk about their issues as they excercise.
Thomas openly talks about his own mental health journey; he even set up a podcast where he discusses mental health (as well as sport, culture and even Ru Paul’s Drag Race) in the hope that it will encourage others to talk about their own issues.
Speaking to Lincolnshire Live, Thomas Dunning said his mental health issues really began with his childhood and the torment he faces at the hand of bullies.
He also speaks of his brother dying of cancer in 2009 and how that was “the trigger for [his] psychosis”
He said: “I would hear, clear as day, voices yelling abuse at me. I started to see my brother, not just in my peripheral vision but there right in front of me. Whenever I experienced this I started trashing rooms, putting my fist through windows.
“My partner Amber, who is now my wife… was basically on the verge of walking out and she told me that if she was going to stay then I would need to change my life”.
Thomas sought help for his mental health problems by confiding in his friends but one day this backfired after he had a psychotic episode in front of them.
After this, his friends set up fake social media profiles, sending abusive messages to people he knew.
“I had become a victim of cyber abuse at the hands of people I thought were my close friends.
“One evening I received a message from people I worked with at the time telling me to not bother coming into work because they know what I’m like.”
That very evening, Thomas made the first attempt on his own life.
“I stood up, I told Amber I loved her and I went into the garage and tried to hang myself.”
Luckily, the pipe he used broke and the attempt was unsuccessful.
He was assessed by the mental health crisis team at hospital, who sent him home with some medication. He was back in hospital the very same day after overdosing on the medication.
He said: “I remember being seen by the [same] triage nurse, who burst into tears when she saw me [again].”
After his suicide attempts, Thomas was diagnosed with PTSD, social anxiety and borderline personality disorder.
His partner convinced him to attend regular group sessions, where he would meet with others with a similar diagnosis to him.
He recalled the experience, saying: “in that group was another man, who ran his own business, who had also been diagnosed with PTSD. He was very open and spoke about his experience.
“This was a turning point for me, because before this I had never thought that anybody who suffered with similar issues could move on and achieve what he had. It changed my outlook completely, meeting people like me and being able to open up conversation.
“I started to do things that I enjoyed and that made me feel good. I enjoyed running the podcast with my friend and started looking around for more I could do.”
Thomas recalls the very first running event he took part in with Amber; he said: “I was 22 stone, so the sight of me running wasn’t pretty. But gradually I got more and more into it and loved it and the impact it made on my mental health. That’s how ‘the mental health runner’ came about.”
The run talk run initiative
Thomas is now the Lincoln community champion for the the Run Talk Run initiative, alongside Pure Gym personal trainer Mark Watson.
Thomas said:”Running has become such an incredible tool for me and my recovery. Myself and Mark made contact with Jess, the founder of Run Talk Run in London, and asked if we could introduce it to Lincoln. We’re now part of the nationwide initiative”.
The distance ran each week isn’t the priority of the initiative. Instead, the aim is to make running and mental health support seem less intimidating, providing a safe space for people to discuss anything that’s troubling them, while getting some exercise at the same time.
According to mental health charity Mind, one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year but to Dunning this means that there are always three others who can help save a life.
“I want to more people who there to know they aren’t on their own,” Thomas said.
“If you go through one day, one hour, one minute or even one second with a mental health problem you are no longer a sufferer, you’re a sur-thrive-or.”