“Having a mental health illness is still a taboo subject in 21st century Britain – and I want to do something to break that.”
The words of Emily Clark (26), who works as a Personal Assistant at Wiltshire Police and who has bipolar disorder.
On Monday 14 May 2018 – the start of Mental Health Awareness Week – Emily will start cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats without a moving an inch. She will be covering the 879 miles on a static bike positioned outside the front doors to the Headquarters’ building in Devizes. From Monday to Friday between nine and five, Emily will be peddling as fast as she can to cover the virtual distance within the week.
Emily, who also volunteers as a Special Constable, will be joined throughout the week by colleagues on a second static bike who will help clock up the mileage towards Emily’s goal.
Her aim is to raise awareness of mental health issues as well as money for the Mental Health Foundation, which is behind Mental Health Awareness Week, and the mental health charity MIND.
Emily, who was diagnosed with bipolar two and a half years ago, said: “I am doing this for two reasons – I have received lots of support in the last five years and I want to give something back. Also, I want to raise awareness of the illness and mental health generally and smash the stigma which sadly is still present – even in this day and age.
“The media and Hollywood don’t always help; they often try and over dramatise a mental health condition, giving the character in a TV programme or film extreme symptoms or reactions. But most people live ordinary lives with a condition – day in, day out.
“When I tell people I have bipolar they are often surprised because I have a full-time job, go to the gym and live a normal life and it’s not what people expect. Usually, they expect me to be in a padded cell.
“I want mental health issues to be out in the open – for people to be aware, to discuss it and so break the taboo which still exists.”
Emily is one of over 20 Blue Light champions across Wiltshire Police, offering peer to peer support to officers and staff.
“It’s not counselling, but when you’re having a tough time it can really help to talk things through with someone who’s maybe been through the same as you and who can guide you to other support services that may be able to help. ”
Emily recognises that it’s often difficult for people to discuss mental health issues, so much so that she is going outside of her comfort zone by cycling: “I’m not a born cyclist. If I enjoyed it it wouldn’t be a challenge to me – I am doing it because it’s going to be hard.”