We have been talking all this Mind Your Head week about the importance of looking after your mental health and how it should be given equal airtime to physical health however, taking the first steps to improve your mental wellbeing can seem daunting, especially in an industry like farming when time pressures and rural isolation are ever present.
One person who is literally leading the field in getting agriculture active is Scottish chilli farmer and freelance consultant, Sheena Horner. Winner of this year’s Farmers Guardian Farming Hero Award, Sheena has spearheaded a running campaign to improve mental health for the past two years – #Run1000.
It’s no secret that running can help a person’s mental health. Even if you run for just a little while, the act itself results in the release of feel-good brain chemicals and reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression. Not only that but running can give you confidence and take your mind off things.
We caught up with Sheena to understand how the #Run1000 Battle of the Nations came about and how she got the industry involved…
She explains: “It’s bad but I never really thought about mental health until Doug Avery was over in Scotland a few years ago and I went to listen to him. I think those talks had an impact on a lot of us.
“During lockdown, it dawned on me the benefits of running/walking on your mental as well as physical health but also that, due to no organised activities taking place, charities that help with mental health would be losing income.”
So, she decided to do something about it and galvanised some passionate team captains from the four nations of the UK and one representing ‘the rest of the world’ who started spreading the word about #Run1000, primarily through social media.
January was chosen as the month to launch the challenge as Sheena believes; “In the rural calendar, it is really hard to find a month when the majority aren’t busy but we went with January as it’s a hard month for a lot of people and I think we all suffer from the January Blues.”
With each participant paying a £20 joining fee, #Run1000 participants were lead by team captains Rich Heady (England ) Emma Picton-Jones (Wales) Peter Hynes (Ireland) Sam Owen(New Zealand) and Sheena herself. 716 participants clocked up a total of 38,936.78 miles which equates to running/walking around the world 1.5 times last month and raised £19,500 for RSABI, DPJ Foundation, EMBRACE Farm, YANA, FCN, The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust, Vetlife and FarmStrong NZ.
“This year has been fantastic and some of the individual efforts have been truly amazing.” She continues. “It’s also been great that people have been so open and honest about mental health and why they have taken part.”
Sheena is keen that the issue of looking after your mental health should not be something that is addressed one week or one month of the year: “I just hope that we continue to talk about mental health and signpost those charities that are there to help those that need it. We have some fantastic initiatives throughout the year but we need to have that awareness 365 days of the year.” She says.
She is urging everyone to: “Keep talking, keep an eye out for your friends and neighbours. Ask if they are ok and then ask again. And yes – it really is ok not to be ok!”
To learn more about #Run1000 follow @_Run1000 on Twitter or visit the website on www.run1000.org The challenge ended on the 31st January 2022 however, the fundraising pages are open until the end of this month so you can still make a donation