Suffolk Mind boss Jon Neal raises money for counselling services by completing RED January

Jon Neal, chief executive of Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Jon Neal, chief executive of Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Mentally unwell people in Suffolk who can’t afford to pay for counselling or wait for NHS treatment will have the chance to access free support thanks to the fundraising efforts of a charity boss.

Jon Neal, chief executive of Suffolk Mind, ran every day in January as part of a national challenge and has to date collected £2,900 in sponsorship.

Mr Neal was joined on his jogs by special guests including Ipswich MP Sandy Martin; Stephen Dunn, chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital; and the editor of the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, Brad Jones. He kept a video diary along the way.

The money Mr Neal has raised will go towards a bursary fund that enables Suffolk Mind to offer counselling services to people who can’t afford to pay or sit on a waiting list for too long.

RED (Run Every Day) January is a fundraiser that is being piloted by national Mind this year.

The aim is to open up the conversation about mental health by promoting the positive power exercise can have on our minds and wellbeing.

It was hoped 4,000 people would take part in the programme, but more than 25,000 runners across the country got involved, raising more than £1 million.

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Mr Neal said: “While running every single day in January has been quite a challenge – especially as I was very unfit at the start of the month, having not exercised at all for many years – I’ve found it more rewarding than I imagined.”

He added: “I feel fitter, I’ve enjoyed dipping into the incredibly friendly and supportive running community, and I feel like I have more energy generally. So I’ll probably keep running for the rest of the year. I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the people who supported me, either by running with me and being interviewed on camera as we jogged along, or sponsoring me, or just providing words of encouragement on social media – it all helped me make it.”

RED January will be extended into 2019, and Mr Neal plans to take part again.

There’s still time to sponsor Mr Neal via his fundraising page.

To get involved in RED January next year, email Suffolk Mind to register your interest.