News - 10th October 2021

A mutual understanding


The following article contains strong themes. If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, please call triple zero (000). 24-hour support is also available at Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

I am a co-Event Director at a parkrun in Victoria. I live with general and social anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, severe depression and suicidal thoughts.


I have struggled with my mental health for about four years. I have days when I just want to curl up in a ball and disappear, and days when I’m scared to see or speak to anyone. I have days when I can’t leave the house, or when I do I drive somewhere I can’t get out of my car. But then there are those few good days in-between.


parkrun is one of the things in my life that gives me a reason to get out of bed when I don’t want to. It gives me one day a week I have something I can focus on and look forward to. It gives me a “why”.


The biggest positive parkrun has given me is a place to go where I feel welcome. As I mostly volunteer, I feel needed, and this has returned my lost confidence little by little.


We are a small event where everyone knows everyone and there is a genuine willingness to help each other and welcome new people. I’ve met other regulars who have said parkrun helps their anxiety levels too. It’s like we have a mutual understanding and respect of each other, which gives comfort.


parkrun is my only time out of the house to socialise. So no matter how I am feeling or what I can cope with when I wake up on a Saturday morning, getting there is the hardest part. But I know once I arrive there is always a big happy greeting from a parkrunner offering to help set up, and I know I’ll be okay, even if it’s just for the hour, it’s an hour my mind can relax and feel okay for a bit.


For anyone reading this who is anxious about turning up to a place with a crowd of strangers alone, I know exactly what this is like. It’s our biggest challenge. This is why it’s so important to me at parkrun that I am a smiling, friendly person who is on the lookout each week for newcomers who are just like me.


There are moments during my usual week, such as shopping, daily tasks and phone calls, that I struggle with – small things that most people take for granted. However, I do now find these less challenging solely due to the impact parkrun has had and the confidence building it has brought me when dealing with other people. It’s helped me find my voice, helps me to realise that I matter somewhere, that my opinions and ideas matter too.


As we emerge into this new world after lockdowns and social restrictions, it’s more important than ever that we do everything we can to use parkrun as a social outlet for the people in our communities who need us the most. Whether you choose to walk, run, volunteer or spectate, there is a place for everyone at parkrun.


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