Ben's big effort shines light on men's mental health, raises $25k for cause

Ben O'Carroll. Photo: Ben O'Carroll via Facebook
Ben O'Carroll. Photo: Ben O'Carroll via Facebook
North Canterbury sheep scanner Ben O'Carroll ran for 13 hours from Cheviot to Christchurch to raise more than $25,000 for men's mental health and suicide prevention.

He spoke to RNZ's Jessie Mulligan recently about his Movember effort - and how it not only helped him and the charities that will now benefit from the money, but also led to more discussion and acceptance of mental health as a subject people could openly talk about.

“I started running in April because I had a couple of mental health issues myself, so I thought I needed to get fit for rugby season," he says.

"I found it was really good for me, therapeutic and I got slightly obsessed with it and I thought I could use this platform to raise some money and awareness.

“When Movember popped up I thought it was quite a good idea to run from one of my home towns to a major city in that area.”

O'Carroll had been running constantly during the week since April, but it was only at the start of November that he got serious. Before that his usual runs would be been anything between 5km and 20km.

“I had a month to prepare for the 112km, it wasn’t a hell of long time and I probably was not quite prepared enough and that showed in the run, but I did pretty well considering. If I’d known I was going to do it earlier, I’d have trained for a lot longer.”

About 10 days before the challenge he’d completed a 50km run, which proved harder then the 112km effort, because he hadn’t organised food and lacked energy.

O’Carroll managed to raise over $25,000, which went into the Movember Foundation. The organisation funds groups like Farm Strong, which helps people struggling within the farming sector.

Another organisation to benefit was Head First, which helps those injured while playing rugby and who then struggle mentally because of it. Suicide prevention group Man Up received a boost too.

He says there has been a sea change in attitudes to male mental health within the rural communities of New Zealand over the past number of years. Men were now more open to seeking help and simply acknowledging that they had problems.

“The culture and community where I’ve been brought up in and working in, we wouldn’t have usually talked about this sort of thing, especially the rural Kiwi blokes with that tough attitude and personae about us all," he says.

"But when it comes down to it, we’ve all had friends that have passed away from taking their own lives. You can tell when someone’s struggling. To open up and be vulnerable about it, that creates a lot of chat and awareness and makes other people feel comfortable to be okay with struggling themselves.

“I definitely noticed that before the run, even during the run and especially after the run, there’ve been people approach me from all over. People I don’t even know, randoms, especially out at social occasions… and they’ve all said ‘thanks so much of doing this, you don’t realise that you’ve actually helped me get through'. Other people have been motivated to get out there and do their own  bits of exercise.”

The run itself was torturous nearing the end.  It seemed to be going well up until the 70km mark, he says, but after 105km it was a different story. There was no way he wasn’t finishing it.

“That’s when I needed to dig really deep. The pain was unreal. My feet were on fire and my left knee felt like it was broken, but I was so lucky to have a good support crew with me.”

This year his plans are even bigger, enlisting friends to target a 160km run to raise more money for charities.


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