Rob Shenton of Eastleigh, who used exercise to overcome his own mental health challenges is urging others to step up to raise vital funds for wounded and sick veterans.
Keen runner Rob reveals that the biggest step he has ever had to take is owning up to having a mental illness that was going to affect him for the rest of his life – as he encourages people across the UK to step up to help injured veterans like him to get the support they need.
He hopes to encourage people to sign up to Help for Heroes’ new challenge, Step 2 It, to do up to 10,000 steps a day and, in so doing, experience the benefits that exercise has given him in boosting his mental wellbeing.
Rob, 47, was medically retired from the Armed Forces after a 21-year military career as a result of PTSD and recurrent depression. About his mental health he says,
‘It was a shock and I wasn’t expecting it. Leaving the military was a turbulent period because I was saying goodbye to everything I’d known for over 20 years. I stopped looking after myself and stopped doing physical activity. I let myself go, I lost my love of running and of life.’
Rob sought help for his depression from Help for Heroes and has use the charity’s Hidden Wounds mental health support extensively since leaving the military. With this support, Rob rediscovered his love of running; so much so that in 2018 he completed the North Pole Marathon.
For those taking part in Step 2 It he adds,
‘What I have found to improve my mental health is if I go running. I’ve always loved running. It’s what I am. That’s why Step 2 It is so good because you will get that physical activity in. Veterans have massive contributions to give to society and Help for Heroes are helping that. So, step to it, get out there, enjoy the challenge and thank you for all the money you’ll raise. It really does make a difference.’
Research* carried out by Help for Heroes among wounded, injured and sick veterans, serving personnel and families reveals that 56% of this group are doing less exercise than normal since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with 39% saying that they don’t feel motivated to exercise. This is despite the fact that 65% of respondents find exercise is something they can use to manage stress and anxiety. Other reasons given for not exercising as much include having to self-isolate (29%), worries over catching the coronavirus (13%), having no/less free time (10%) and having to look after children/partner at home (10%).
Step 2 It asks participants to sign up at Step2It.helpforheroes.org.uk and do 10,000 steps a day (or a distance of their choice) for 30 days, getting sponsors to support their challenge. With the majority of its fundraising events being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Help for Heroes hopes that Step 2 It will start plugging its fundraising deficit while giving people an opportunity to get fit in a fun way.
Hannah Lawton, Sports Recovery Manager at Help for Heroes, says,
‘Sport and exercise are massively important for many of the sick and wounded veterans that we support. Not just to help their physical wellbeing but to improve mental health. It can be a great way to re-motivate yourself after injury or illness and help you realise you can still do the things you love.
‘Over the past few months, many people have found solace in exercising and keeping fit. But like many of our veterans, there are also those who have felt demotivated because of concerns and worries caused by the coronavirus, even though we all know that exercise makes us feel better. Our hope is that Step 2 It will give anyone and everyone across the UK a goal to work to – either to motivate them to get back into exercise, or a reason to keep up new habits formed. By taking this big step for themselves, they won’t just be helping veterans like Cornelia, Rob, Rachel and John, but will be doing themselves a favour too.’
*About the Help for Heroes Research: * Based on 312 responses to a survey carried out by Help for Heroes in May 2020 of wounded, injured and sick veterans, serving personnel and families who answered questions around the amount of exercise they had undertaken since the COVID-19 pandemic began to understand how their support needs may have changed.