Campaigner for mental health and running enthusiast John Owens is playing a leading role in the Cut the Clock initiative led by Help for Heroes. Cut the Clock is a national campaign to end the stigma of psychological wounds and support those affected to seek help.
John was at the campaign launch in January at Tower Bridge where he swopped stories with ex-rugby international and TV personality Matt Dawson as the Help the Heoes logo was emblazoned onto the tower.
John features in the campaign video which you can click on above.
Talking to runABC Scotland John said: "Mental health is of growing concern in modern society but particularly relevant to Armed Forces Veterans, who can delay seeking help due to believing civilian services will not understand or support them and a fear of being treated differently by friends and family."
John is speaking from experience. The youngest soldier to serve in the Gulf War, John suffered a stroke in his early 20s without even realising it. When he suffered a second stroke at the age of 38, coming to terms with it in his mind was tougher than dealing with the effects on his body.
His mental health took a hit, yet John felt unable to talk about it and suffered in silence for 18 months. Eventually, John, now aged 44, broke down and in doing so, realised that opening up was the first, brave step in helping him on the road to recovery.
John was supported in his recovery by the Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds service, which offers mental health support to veterans and their loved ones. He said: “I am proud to stand up and call time on the stigma of mental health with Help for Heroes. For me months passed before I had help. I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer like that. I am getting behind the Cut the Clock campaign so Help for Heroes can continue their amazing work helping people like me.”
Running has been a huge part of John's recovery and he is certain that his improving physical fitness has had a significant positive impact on his mental health. John signed up for two challenges in 2016 – the Great Scottish Run and Scottish Half Marathon and at the same time he did something he’d never have thought possible before – he talked openly and publicly about his mental health battles.
John continues his journey in 2019 with a 10 x 10K challenge followed by plans for Running The Blades Half Marathon and Loch Ness Marathon in October. John, whose local club is Ron's Runners, will start his 10k programme at the Hillbilly 10K at Dalmellington (Ayrshire).
John will also be giving a number of motivational talks to groups across Scotland in 2019 where he will be highlighting the importance of seeking early assistance for mental health issues, the value of support from individuals and groups and the role of physical exercise.
Find out more about how you can help end mental health stigma at the Cut The Clock website.