We’re taking the Medicine Ball Challenge to raise mental health awareness
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Our officers and staff will be taking turns to be chained to a medicine ball between now and May to raise awareness about the importance of mental health.
The Medicine Ball Challenge was created in 2018 by soldier Andy Unwin, a staff sergeant with the MPS Regiment in Colchester who has lost friends and a family member to suicide.
The 3kg ball is a physical representation of the weight that people who are struggling with their mental health carry with them, and it’s hoped that the conversations the ball provokes will encourage people to discuss mental health issues and seek help if they need it.
More than three hundred people nationwide have taken part in the challenge so far with more than £80,000 raised for charity.
Sergeant Allan Donaldson of Maldon Local Policing Team has brought the challenge to Essex Police and will be one of the first to carry a ball. He spent 25 years in the army before joining the force four years ago.
He said: “A lot of people don’t realise that the incidents that police officers deal with - whether it’s accidents, suicides or domestic violence - these images with can have massive effects on the officers for years to come.
“The challenge is a great way for people to open up about mental health. It’s a talking point, breaks down a lot of barriers and shows people that they don’t have to be scared or ashamed of their mental health.”
Officers and staff will wear the ball for three days at a time before passing it on to a colleague. They are allowed to take it off for operational or safety purposes.
Sponsorship money raised will be split between ABF and the Essex Police Benevolent Fund who have partnered with Combat Stress to offer support for people with mental health issues.
Founder Andy Unwin and colleagues from the MPS Regiment joined Sgt Donaldson, North LPA Commander Ch Supt Claire Talbot, Colchester District Commander Ch Insp Colin Cox and representatives of the charities Combat Stress and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity at Colchester Police Station for a ceremonial handover of the two medicine balls that will be touring the force over the next four months.
Speaking at event about the reasons he created the challenge, Andy Unwin said: “A soldier that I used to serve with took his own life and it knocked me for six. His nickname was Smiler, he seemed such a happy guy. You would have never known he was struggling. It’s an invisible wound. Being chained to the ball represents that you can’t just put mental ill health down, you carry it with you.
“The amount that police have to deal with on a daily basis can bring trauma and mental health problems. It’s good to break down the stigma and talk openly and normalise conversations about mental health as a lot of people may feel like they can’t talk.
“It’s huge that we’re being supported by blue light services as many people leave the army and join the police, fire service or ambulance service.”
If you would like to sponsor our officers, please visit the Just Giving page.
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