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Running the London Marathon for SLaM

19.04.16 Categories:

Alison is running the London Marathon for South London and Maudsley 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, and when she first developed the condition it severely affected her confidence.

She began to show signs of having schizophrenia in her late teens and early twenties, but it was some time before mental health professionals came up with the diagnosis. Gemma went through a very difficult period of her life 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.’

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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 is a way that Alison can 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, which she hadn’t been able to do for some time.

‘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 completely 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 is a possibility that would have been much more remote without the help of SLaM.

In training for the London Marathon

Alison has been training hard for the London Marathon and received donations from their friends and family, who have been keen to support the cause.

‘I have been running with my local group in Croydon for nearly 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 the week before 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 funded by essential fundraising like Laura’s. Sign up to cheer on Alison at the London Marathon with us! 

Names have been changed to protect their identities.