'I want more people to talk openly about suicide so we can help save lives' - Hook Norton man talks candidly about his emotional battle with mental health
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Endurance athlete Richard Edge has set himself a gruelling challenge ahead - but that is nothing compared to the one he has already endured in his life.
And the determined 39-year-old from Hook Norton wants to make sure that his next feat of endurance shines a light on an issue close to his own heart - suicide prevention.
Today (Thursday September 10) is World Suicide Prevention Day and Richard has talked candidly about his own mental health battles in an attempt to help others do the same.
His sister, Leona, describes him as the 'man that won't be beaten' - and that has been shown in the build up to his latest challenge, titled Beyond 226 (a reference to the total number of kilometres completed in an Iron distance triathlon).
After two years of training for the iron man event in Portugal, the event was cancelled due to Covid-19. He rescheduled it for Italy - but then four weeks before he was meant to take part, that was cancelled too.
And also while training, he broke his leg and had a serious bike crash.
Not one to give up, he and his friend Alex Tebbs, 40, have mapped it all out locally and will complete and organise their own ironman on September 20. It will start off in open water in Oxford, cycling laps, then finally running a marathon and finishing in their village of Hook Norton.
Richard hopes the challenge is a way of shining a spotlight on suicide prevention and he has kept a diary to record his thoughts during the training.
He said: "Me breaking my leg, falling off my bike, being in hospital, coronavirus, the event being cancelled are nice twists, but Thursday September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day and more than anything I would love this story to inspire people to get help, ask for help and maybe for others to understand mental health better.
"Nearly three quarters of all suicides are men, and the suicide rate among men is increasing. We are conditioned in society that men should not show emotion, but this conditioning is preventing men talking about their thoughts, fears and feelings.
"I was like this and it nearly took my life."
On his training he added: "When training to complete an Ironman you put in big training sessions, some last six to eight hours, and for the most part you train alone, swimming, running or cycling, and with that time you get a tremendous amount of time to think, hence my decision to keep a diary.
"It's through this time I have come to realise that I want to help more people overcome their battles with mental health or to help others understand mental health.
"We need to create the right culture and environment where people are comfortable speaking about their feelings, their mental health as much as they do about their physical health. We need to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation of mental health.
"I have been blessed to have an employer who stood by me as I took five months away from work to get help to overcome my depression and anxiety. My wife and my sister tried to help me many times over a two year period, and never did I let them in, but they never gave up on me, and were there when I finally decided I needed help.
"I wrote my sister and wife a letter as I sat alone in a meeting room at work, sat there crying as I wrote how I felt, as I knew I couldn't keep going anymore. I wrote it down in my work notebook, took a photo and sent it via a message to them both. That day changed my life.
"Alex Tebbs, the man who I will run the event with, he was there for me. I still remember him coming to the house not long after I was signed off work, during the time where I would sleep for hours during the day, the time where I didn't see any joy in the world, but he just asked me to go for a walk.
"He knew why I wasnt working, but he never judged me, but just spoke to me as a human being, he was at ease talking to me, listening to me, and helped me see that there was hope.
"We will run our race on September 20 side by side, not racing each other, but supporting each other, just as Alex stood by me in 2017. For me that will be amazing and a poetic way to complete our journey."
Richard and Alex have also decided to raise money for Hook Norton School. To donate visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/beyond-226?utm_term=R8Y2bnmnpSamaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123.