This page aims to help demystify mental health, signpost you towards various sources of help for mental health support, and explain a little of how running and other exercise are tools we can use to help improve mental health alongside physical health, even at very modest levels of exertion.
Mental health is something we all have, just like physical health, and it can be good, bad, or anything in between or outside those. The statistics for poor mental health are higher in the LGBTI+ community than the general population, higher for gay and bisexual men, and higher again for other minorities within the community, particularly trans and non-binary people. This is often known as minority stress.
However, studies have also found that affirmative healthcare treatment and mental health support can reduce the negative statistics, often to levels similar to the general population - so although our community is at particular risk of poor mental health outcomes, they can be improved, and there is plenty of reason for hope as we build a more inclusive world going forwards.
Among our numbers at EFR we have plenty of experience with mental health issues in many forms, and we encourage and support everyone to get/keep active in whatever form works best for you.
Several of our JogLeaders have taken part in the JogScotland mental health awareness training provided by SAMH and taken the I’m Here pledge, and we’re here to talk informally. We encourage EFR members to check in with us and each other, especially during a run because the act of running can help simplify conversation and increase the feeling of ease as you’re running side by side rather than talking face to face.
Exercise can help improve your mental health by lifting your levels of serotonin and endorphins and reducing the stress hormone cortisol, as well as by increasing your general physical fitness and improving your sleep afterwards. It can also be a distraction from whatever’s going on in your life for a while and give your brain processing time.
Doing that exercise in a welcoming club setting where you feel at home can multiply those effects by helping with a sense of community and belonging, and these are particularly important for LGBTI+ people and other minorities, who may not always feel as at home in wider society.
At EFR we know how important it is to feel like you belong somewhere and many of us have felt a stronger connection to the LGBTI+ community and social life through running; for lots of us it has been a life-changing connection as we get to know other LGBTI+ people in Edinburgh and through the wider frontrunners community in other cities across the world.
TIPS FOR THE LOWER TIMES
Be kind to yourself
Take things one day at a time and be patient with yourself
Sometimes just surviving the day is enough: feeding yourself, a little self-care, getting some quality sleep
Try not to judge yourself by other people’s standards, especially if those are unrealistic
Know that you are not alone and many of us have gone through something similar and come out the other side
Remember that reaching out is a sign of strength.
If you need support, please reach out. Here are a few resources, but feel free to ask your fellow EFRs for their personal recommendations.
Speak to your GP or if you’re in crisis call the NHS on 111
Al: I came out in my early 30s and joined EFR for the first ever club run - EFR quickly became my most significant connection to the LGBTI+ community and a huge driving force for my social life and focus for my activism. Like many LGBTI+ people I struggle with my mental health in a world that’s not always welcoming to us, and I’ve had some very low periods with major fatigue contributing to them. I’ve had therapy, which I found extremely helpful with externalising my feelings about the complexities of gender and sexuality and how I fit into this world as trans and non-binary, and it taught me a lot about how to talk openly about my feelings and not hide from them (although this is a very hard habit to break and I still have to fight it!). I firmly believe in the power of talking and I feel we should absolutely normalise talking therapy as an occasional but routine check-in; we need to look after our mental health as we do our bodies. Running lifts and stabilises my mental health and I feel a huge difference when I’m injured and have to find other ways to exercise. Running reduces my anxiety and makes me feel more present and connected to life and the world, and I love my EFR community.