This week’s blog post is from Victoria Morris who has been a long-term supporter for Mental Health Research UK. She describes how she first got involved with supporting our charity and some of the amazing challenges that she has set for herself. You can read more about her latest challenge here.
If you’d asked me ten years ago, I would have said that I had a fairly good awareness of UK research charities, not least because I worked on Europe PMC (https://europepmc.org/), helping to make biomedical research papers freely available online. What I didn't notice, however, was that not a single one of the charities involved in this collaboration focused on mental health (although in the years since I worked on the project, the charity MQ (https://www.mqmentalhealth.org/) has joined the flock). And the reason for this? Unbelievably, there wasn't a UK charity dedicated to funding research into mental health!
I first heard about MHRUK from friends who had supported the charity since their son Martin sadly ended his own life back in 2011. I started helping with a website to celebrate Martin's life and music (http://www.martinsutherlandmusic.com/), but I soon realised that I could do more to support MHRUK. Partly, this seemed like a good way to do something positive in Martin's memory - and partly I was suddenly made aware of the vast gulf in our UK research.
Of course I'd heard of charities like Mind (https://www.mind.org.uk/) and Heads Together (https://www.headstogether.org.uk/). But the work they do is focused on helping people live with better mental health, rather than trying to tackle the root causes of poor mental health. I don't mean to suggest that this isn't vital work: it is.
MIND, for example, provides a really useful summary of mental health medications (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/). It's a valuable source of information to help people make informed decisions about care options for themselves, friends or family. But how can MIND make this information available without someone to do the research, to develop the medications, and study how they affect mind and body? That's where MHRUK steps in!
The more I learn about MHRUK, the more I realise the immeasurable value of the research that they fund - perhaps most of all the fact that they encourage early-career researchers to get involved in the field.
Having taken biology no further than GCSE, I can't really contribute to the research, but I can at least contribute to finding the money to fund the research.
I love physical challenges, so it seemed obvious that I should come up with increasingly zany physical challenges, then try to get people to sponsor me. I've walked between the highest point of every UK county, climbed up the outside of my house 493 times, run 100 miles home after the Great North Run … I wrote a book about my 3,500-mile walk (https://mappamorris.co.uk/2017/highpoints.html), and I regularly give talks in return for a contribution to MHRUK. Talks are, of course, also a good way to spread the word about MHRUK.
I sometimes split my fundraising with other charities, but I've raised over £10,000 so far, and hope to raise much more over the years to come. The main problem that I face now is coming up with new ideas … watch this space.