Former Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas has battled through the pain barrier as he treks across England in a bid to raise awareness for men's mental health, and he has given Female First an exclusive insight into his motivation to take on the task.
Ryan's charity walk will see him cover 262 miles over the next ten days in a bid to raise awareness for the mental health charity CALM, yet he had to overcome food poisoning and a damaged foot in the build-up to his heroic effort.
That has been followed by serious blisters affecting his feet in the opening few days of his walk, but he insists the pain is all worthwhile as he looks to raise £50,000 for the charity.
In a year when everyone's mental health has been pushed to breaking point, Ryan admits his desire to make a difference forced him into action.
"I'm in a very privileged position with the platform I have to make a difference and I just felt I had to try and do something," he told us in an exclusive interview.
"We have all been enjoying getting outside in the fresh air and enjoying a walk and it struck me that I could try and use one of my hobbies to do something on a bigger scale that would bring awareness and try and shed a light on how big a problem suicide has become in this country.
"If we can make a few people stop and think about this issue, then we will have achieved what we set out to do here.
"The challenge will not be easy to do, but it has given me motivation and a focus that has been great for my own mental health and I'd encourage anyone who is struggling when they get up in the morning to go for a walk or play a sport to give them a purpose every day. If you are wondering what the point is every day, think of something that will motivate you and it massively helps."
Ryan admits his own mental health has been under strain in the last year, especially after he lost a friend who took his own life during lockdown.
"In the first three months of Covid, we thought the time off work was great, even though we were all shocked when we turned on the news and saw what was happening with the virus," he continued. "Then as it went on, we could all see it was a long-term thing and that's when it started to get hard.
"I'm coming out of this latest lockdown feeling more motivated and positive than I did when I came into it.
"This last year, we have noticed more than ever that people are suffering with their mental health. We all know people who are struggling and the platform I have got to try and influence a discussion about this was something I needed to use. If I can play a small part in this, it's easy to do.
"I don't even know if I've suffered from mental health issues, but we've all had days when we have that feeling in our stomach that we don't quite feel right and yet we don't understand why. I've had that and getting out there and doing something with you day changes that negative mentality.
"Routine, fitness, health, eating properly and looking at ways to give you a better outlook in life is the way forward. I don't want to worry too much about the future and what might go wrong. I want to look forward to the here and now.
"Men, in particular, don't talk about their feelings and emotions enough, but I'm seeing a drastic change in that. My advice would be if you have a group of lads who are good friends, join a WhatsApp group together and don't be afraid to say if you are having a bad day.
"Me and my brothers wear our heart on our sleeve and we always have done, but some of the lads in our WhatsApp group would never have reached out and said they were having a bad day in the past. It's great that they now feel they can do that. That's how it should be."
You can donate to Ryan's Just Giving page here - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ryan-thomas36
Words by Kevin Palmer for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer.
You can read part one of Kevin's interview with Ryan by clicking here.
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