International Security Journal caught up with Andy Unwin MBE, creator of the Medicine Ball Challenge, a superb charity initiative which has so far raised over £15,000 for mental health charities.
What prompted you to create the Medicine Ball Challenge?
My idea to create the Challenge came in October 2018. I had become increasingly aware of the amount of armed forces personnel suffering with mental health, it seemed to be everywhere. The final straw was when I was told of a young soldier I had commanded in Afghanistan who very sadly took his life a few years after getting back home. This hit me hard as you would never have thought he was suffering with mental ill health, there were no visible signs. He always seemed so happy, that’s the trouble with mental ill health, it is sometimes hidden so well no one really knows what inner battles people are dealing with. It really does carry “invisible wounds” and is an “invisible burden” that people carry.
I wanted to create something that really represented mental ill health. I sat in my living room and thought, “what is mental ill health? It’s a weight, a burden.” The idea of carrying a Medicine Ball came to mind to make the weight and burden visible. However, I thought if I carry the Medicine Ball I can put it down when I please. This would not have properly represented the feeling as you can’t just put mental ill health down, it’s there all the time. So I chained and handcuffed the 3kg medicine ball to my wrist for two weeks, raising as much awareness as possible and encouraging others to take on the challenge.
What are you hoping the initiative will achieve?
I want to break down the stigma of mental ill health. By creating a conversation around mental ill health, it will break down the stigma.
Could you tell us what the challenge involves please?
The Medicine Ball Challenge involves handcuffing a 3kg medicine ball to your wrist for seven days only taking it off for sleeping and driving. Raising as much awareness and funds as possible. Use whatever means you have available to raise awareness and start the much needed conversation around mental ill health. Which it undoubtedly does when you wear the ball, people just start talking about their own experiences of mental ill health.
Which charities is it raising funds/awareness for?
The Medicine Ball Challenge raises funds for: Mind, Combat Stress and ABF The Soldiers Charity.
How pleased are you with the response it has received?
I was over the moon when, after my two weeks of initially wearing the ball, it had raised over £1,500 and created over six months’ worth of people wanting to take on the challenge after me and the list kept growing! People could really resonate with the concept of the Medicine Ball and what it represents. We have had senior members of The Security Institute, Rick Mounfield and John Sephton both take part. It was quickly booked up for well over a year in advance with participants from JP Morgan Chase, The Fire and Rescue Service, RAF, Navy, Army Cadets and many more organisations.
It became so popular that I took on a partner who is equally as passionate about mental health. Andy Perkins and I run the challenge together as well as being full time soldiers.
Have you set any particular targets for fundraising?
Initially I set the target of £3,000, however the Medicine Ball Challenge has completely smashed this already, currently sitting at almost £15,000. The plan is to keep the challenge going as long as possible. It has been running for just over two years now and we have some big future plans for the challenge. We have been working closely with all three charities to get the Medicine Ball Challenge pushed as far as we can in order to raise as much awareness as possible.
How can people get involved?
To get involved, find the Medicine Ball Challenge page on Facebook and message us or get in touch on LinkedIn. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions we are currently paused but can’t wait to get going again soon!
If you would like to donate, please follow the link: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Not_all_wounds_are_visible