Wigan man takes on strenuous journey for mental health awareness

A Wigan soldier has embarked on a gruelling challenge to raise awareness about mental health.
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Sgt Alex Rigby, from Landgate will walk from his base in Colchester to Wigan to have dinner at his mum’s house.

The 330-mile walk - the equivalent of 13 marathons in as many days - is in aid of the Elliot Project which deals with raising awareness about mental health and training and educating people to deal with and recognise mental health issues.

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Sgt Rigby, who has battled demons of his own, previously served as a guardsman within the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, where he served for 11 years and completed two operational tours of Afghanistan.

Sgt Alex Rigby, right with Elliot's mum Shirley and friend Abi, leftSgt Alex Rigby, right with Elliot's mum Shirley and friend Abi, left
Sgt Alex Rigby, right with Elliot's mum Shirley and friend Abi, left
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Sgt Rigby said: “I found myself standing beneath a rugby post with a dog lead in my hand, with tears running down my face with me ready to take my own life.

“Growing up without a father left its mark on me, and it was at this point where the thought of leaving my children in the same situation brought me to my feet, and without realising I was back in my home and into my wife’s arms.

“At this point, my wife Bec sat me down and dared to ask me questions no one ever had about how I was feeling. I owe her everything for this. Following the conversation my wife made me ring the medical centre and book an appointment with my GP.

Sergeant Rigby, left with friend Abi who helps run the Elliot ProjectSergeant Rigby, left with friend Abi who helps run the Elliot Project
Sergeant Rigby, left with friend Abi who helps run the Elliot Project
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“I was then referred to the department of mental health where I was swiftly diagnosed with PTSD and placed on a nine-month cognitive behavioural therapy course. After this I gained the tools to help get me back into work and gave me the confidence to continue my career.”

Following his course, Sgt Rigby was introduced to the medicine ball challenge, where you have a medicine ball attached to your arm.

“It was a visual representation of what it is like to walk around with a mental health injury.

“This made people come and speak to me and I found comfort in their stories and would see similarities between them and myself which at the time were refreshing to say the least.

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“After a week I gave the medicine ball back and at this point people stopped speaking to me about their mental health which, metaphorically speaking was like losing a limb.”

Sgt Rigby has had the 330-mile walk home planned for a while but due to Covid it was postponed. He was intending to do it with several friends including Elliot Hennell, a former Grenadier Guard from Battersea who also suffered from PTSD, but then tragedy struck.

Sgt Rigby: “I decided to take on a double marathon in one day. On the 12th mile I had the phone call to say Elliot had taken his own life which completely blew me of my feet.

“I had lost a further four people to suicide and this was the final straw for me.

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“I attended the funeral and was moved to the core when Elliot’s mum Shirley started to cry as they brought Elliot out.

“The sounds of grief she made will never leave me and motivates me to this day to make a change.

“I had numerous conversations with the family and friends of the family and it was apparent that there was quite a bit of frustrating energy, to say the least. We concluded as a group that we would try to make a change in Elliot’s name and The Elliot Project was born.”

Over the past 12 months, The Elliot Project has set out to provide 12 courses provided by Mental Health First Aid.

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They have now trained over 230 people in MHFA awareness and first aid.

To complete this mammoth task, Sgt Rigby and his team will need to complete 13 marathons to complete the journey. He and his friends have a six-birth motor home for accommodation and a small team who will provide support, while Sgt Rigby completes the entire route.

The walk was beginning on November 15 and set to end at the Park Hotel, Wigan on November 27.

His mum Gwen said she was very proud of her son and was putting out yellow ribbons for his home-coming.

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You can donate to his journey via his just giving pageThanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here

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