Alison ran the London Marathon for South London and Maudsley (SLaM) because her sister, Gemma, has been under their care. Gemma has schizophrenia, which means daily life can be a challenge if she is having an episode. When she first developed the condition it severely affected her confidence.
She began to show signs of having schizophrenia in her late teens, but it was some time before mental health professionals came up with the diagnosis. Gemma went through a very difficult time just before being referred to Bethlem at SLaM.
Alison says, ‘It was a very distressing time for the whole family as well as my sister, and she was in such a bad way that I personally couldn’t have imagined her making any sort of recovery when she was first admitted.’
Dealing with mental health issues
It is so hard to watch a loved one deal with mental health issues and feel completely helpless. Running the London Marathon was a way that Alison could give back to SLaM to say thank you for helping Gemma to steer herself through a very rough time.
‘Over the course of her year’s stay at Bethlem, Gemma became gradually better and was eventually able to do simple things like tidy her room and go for short walks again.
‘She was then able to participate in some of the excellent occupational therapy activities that SLaM offers, such as cookery, pottery, art and cycling. These weekly activities were invaluable to her recovery, because they helped to build her confidence.’
Stopping smoking and moving on
SLaM also helped Gemma to stop smoking and she enjoyed walking the dog that visited the hospital once a week. Gemma says, ‘I spent about 12 months at the Royal Bethlem Hospital, where the care and support I received was exceptional. The various occupational therapy classes were a huge benefit and the staff were superb. I really enjoyed cookery in particular.’
Alison says, ‘Gemma has now left Bethlem and is living independently. For a few days every week, she actively volunteers in a local Fairtrade café and in an office. She has also taken up doing 10K runs and half marathons for her wellbeing.’
Gemma hopes to be able to take on some part-time paid work in the near future, which would have been unthinkable without SLaM’s help.
In training for the London Marathon
Alison trained hard for the London Marathon and received donations from their friends and family. ‘I have been running with my local group in Croydon for two years now, moving from 5K to 10K runs, to half marathons, and now I’m taking on my first full marathon. When I won a ballot ticket I was really pleased, and my running friends who couldn’t get tickets are running the Brighton Marathon instead.
‘I wanted to fundraise for SLaM as a way of giving something back to the organisation that offered my sister so much help. The London Marathon lands on my birthday this year, so it will be nice to complete it in my 38th year!’
Many services at SLaM have been supported by fundraising like Laura’s. See how you can get involved!
Names have been changed to protect their identities.