Leeds takes on The Medicine Ball Challenge

A humble medicine ball is helping to illustrate how hard it can be to live with mental illness.

Veterans all over Britain are taking part in the new medicine ball challenge to raise awareness for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by stressful or traumatic experiences. According to a study conducted in 2018 by King’s College London, there has been a 6% increase in PTSD within veteran’s between 2014-2016.

Symptoms of this disorder include flashbacks, insomnia and nightmares, which is a burden upon peoples lives and can impede everyday activities.

Creating The Medicine Ball Challenge

Andy Unwin is a veteran who created ‘The Medicine Ball Challenge’, which entails a person handcuffing a medicine ball to themselves and carrying out everyday tasks.

“It’s a visual representation of the weight and burden those suffering with mental ill health may feel,” he told Leeds Hacks.

“The idea is to encourage people to talk about mental health issues.

One of the two medicine balls circulating Britain for the Medicine Ball Challenge (credit to The Medicine Ball Challenge Facebook page)

“I started the challenge last year on International Men’s day 2018. My aim was for me to wear the Medicine Ball for two weeks and complete various challenges such as weight marches with the recruits, Park runs and normal PT. But mainly wearing the ball out was raising awareness, as people would clearly ask me what I was doing.

“Before long I had the ball booked up for nine months or more.

“My reason for starting it is because I was sick to the stomach of soldiers and veterans suffering with mental ill health or struggling so badly that they took their own lives. I have lost a few friends to this and have others who are suffering due to mental illness.

“I have had so many nice messages from Veterans and Soldiers or the families who have lost loved ones.

“I felt honoured to be taking part”

Leeds veterans are also getting involved, including Steve Briddon, a firefighter from West Yorkshire.

““After leaving the army, I suffered separation anxiety and felt like I had no purpose. Joining the fire services really turned my life around and gave me fulfilment.

“Andy contacted me and I felt honoured to be taking part. We did the challenge for eight days as a service. You spend four days a week with people and you don’t really know what they’ve been through until you sit there with it in front of you.

“We work as a collective, only operating together and we shared the burden of the ball and took it in turns in carrying it. You learn more, not just about each other, but about what it is to live with mental health.

“The thing is I could go to the pub on a normal day with my daughter and have a drink and nobody would think anything. But when I went in with the medicine ball as well, because people could see it, so they asked if I was okay.

Steve Briddon is one of the many who have taken part in The Medicine Challenge so far. This is him and his daughter walking together. (credit to Steve Briddon)

“People don’t realise that when you suffer with mental health, normal activities are impeded just as carrying the medicine ball does. It is meant to show people that just as you carry the ball, you carry your mental health with you. The medicine ball works is only three pounds, but if you compare to a packet of Flumps, it’s quite a weight to take with you.

“After seeing me go through the challenge my wife said, ‘It’s a shame there’s not a pink one, for women who are going through postpartum depression as well.’”

Around six in every 10 men and five in 10 women experience at least one trauma in their life. This disorder is not strictly speaking curable, but like any mental illness it is something that the person will always carry with them.

This challenge is also about raising money for charities who work alongside veterans, such as Combat Stress, ABF Soldiers charity, Army Benevolent and Mind.

Barney Barnbrook, a representative from ABF Soldiers charity, described this disorder as “a black dog and burden that follows you around.” He also explained how The Medicine Ball Challenge’s Just Giving page raised around £10,000 in sponsorship and it is continuing to grow.

If you would like to donate to this cause, please click the link below and share your support for veterans in the UK.https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fuk.virginmoneygiving.com%2FNot_all_wounds_are_visible%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR0OLuO6-ESAcs-OftUjYmE8YKbDjSaDoXECd1HtfdBTtS5iDFqGTWbpT7A&h=AT2R20R6m1Eh-CXrKKi5cLknaLYklDVJCtr9p6HtE5J7H0Hsw8xZPQC2p6Ye6fjsMX5nPtnxmk6CoqvLc1UQLKdrENf5jGjrCXxZMFNdMlGmm9SQppaHUUO6TQO7lzLFv8MMuA

The Medicine Ball Challenge created by Andy Unwin, helping charities who work with veterans all over Britain

About the Author

Georgia Dossis
Georgia is a student journalist who writes for Leeds Now

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