The International Security Journal met Andy Unwin MBE, creator of the Medicine Ball Challenge, a great charity that has raised over £ 15,000 to date for mental health charities.
What made you choose to create the Medicine Ball Challenge?
My idea of creating the challenge came in October 2018. I had become increasingly aware of how many members of the armed forces suffer from mental health. It seemed to be everywhere. The last straw came when I was told about a young soldier whom I had commanded in Afghanistan and who sadly committed suicide a few years after his return. That hit me hard because you would never have thought he was suffering from a mental illness. There were no visible signs. He always seemed so happy, that’s the problem with mental illness, it’s so well hidden sometimes that no one really knows what inner battles people are dealing with. It really carries “invisible wounds” and is an “invisible burden” that humans carry.
I wanted to create something that really represented mental illness. I sat in my living room and thought, “What is mental illness? It’s a weight, a burden. “The idea of carrying a medicine ball came to my mind to make the weight and strain visible. However, I thought if I carry the medicine ball I can put it down as I wish. This would not have portrayed the feeling correctly, as one cannot simply put down the mental illness, but is always there. So I cuffed and handcuffed the 3kg medicine ball to my wrist for two weeks to create as much awareness as possible and encourage others to rise to the challenge.
What are you hoping for the initiative?
I want to break the stigma of mental illness. Creating a conversation about mental illness removes the stigma.
Can you please tell us what the challenge entails?
In the Medicine Ball Challenge, a 3 kg medicine ball is handcuffed to your wrist for seven days and only removed for sleeping and driving. Raise as much awareness and money as possible. Use whatever means available to raise awareness and start the much-needed conversation about mental illness. What it undoubtedly does when you wear the ball is that people just start talking about their own experiences with mental illness.
Which charities are fundraising / raising awareness for?
The Medicine Ball Challenge collects donations for: Mind, Combat Stress and ABF The Soldiers Charity.
How satisfied are you with the response you received?
I was overjoyed to find that after two weeks of first wearing the ball, I raised over £ 1,500 and created over six months worth of people ready to take on the challenge after me, and the list kept growing ! People could really resonate with the concept of the medicine ball and its representation. We have invited senior members of the Security Institute, Rick Mounfield and John Sephton, both to attend. It quickly booked out for well over a year in advance with participants from JP Morgan Chase, the Fire and Rescue Service, the RAF, the Navy, the Army Cadets, and many more organizations.
It got so popular that I hired a partner who was also passionate about mental health. Andy Perkins and I jointly lead the challenge and are full-time soldiers.
Do you have specific fundraising goals?
I initially set a goal of 3,000 pounds, but the Medicine Ball Challenge has already completely exceeded that and is now close to 15,000 pounds. The plan is to keep the challenge going as long as possible. It’s been going on for a little over two years and we have some big future plans for the challenge. We worked closely with all three charities to advance the Medicine Ball Challenge as much as possible, to raise awareness as much as possible.
How can people get involved?
To get involved, find the Medicine Ball Challenge page on Facebook and drop us a line or get in touch with LinkedIn. We’re currently on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions but can’t wait to get started again soon!
If you would like to donate, please follow the link: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Not_all_wounds_are_visible