Original article from Kent Live
Men's mental health is a subject that for a long time was not talked about often enough in the public sphere.
There are slow steps being taken though for it to be discussed in greater detail and encourage others to not be silent about their problems.
Friends Ashley Stone, 34, and Adam Palmer, 39, both from Strood, had this in mind when they decided to embark on a year-long fundraising campaign for North Kent Mind.
The duo have both done plenty of fundraising for various charities in recent years, and the idea of focusing this year's effort on mental health was created.
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"Adam put the idea to me of doing the full 12 months of fundraising and after what has been an awful year – 18 months for so many people obviously physically – we felt it was important to remember that it was just as bad for some mentally," said Ashley.
There was also a personal link to the cause as Ashley had dealt with mental health issues before.
He said: "As someone who has experienced mental health issues about 10 years ago, I always used to bottle things up and let it get on top of me.
"Eventually I broke down in tears at my workplace and was sent for counselling. This was obviously hard but so rewarding as it got so many things off my chest that I didn’t even know were affecting me.
"There is such a stigma especially within males that needs to be broken, there is nothing wrong with being down, crying or being unhappy it is just a part of life."
Initially a target of £3,000 was created, with the knowledge that organising events around lockdown restriction would limit them.
However, the pair got creative, with sponsored walks, Zoom quizzes, and the auctioning off of football shirts helping them get towards their goal at a rapid rate.
Even local League One side Gillingham FC chipped in, sending over a signed shirt from all the squad that was sold for £250.
A celebrity charity football match was also held in June, where 250 people watched Medway Mind vs Mind United.
Ex-footballers such as Danny Kedwell and Connor Essam took part, with current Crawley Town midfielder Jack Payne also appearing.
A huge all round effort allowed the game to go ahead, with the pair's friend Simon Jackson arranging for kits to be made, London AC sponsoring the game and donating £500, MTS donating £200, and companies such as DS Smith, Kempley Paper Mill and Smart Energy sponsoring the kits.
As a result, the fundraising page shows a total of £5,455 at the time of writing, but as the money from recent events like the football match hasn't been added on yet, the total is actually over £7,000.
Adam was "overwhelmed" with being well over double their target with just under half the year to go.
"Everyone's just helped us out," he said.
"We've managed to get celebs sharing bits and pieces, ex-footballers being happy to play in our match and share posts.
"We've managed to get to money thanks to so many people's help, it's unbelievable," he added.
Additionally, the pair have also been nominated for Kent Fundraiser of the Year by the Kent Wellbeing Awards, which was another pleasing note for Adam to reflect on.
"I'm overjoyed. Everything that's happened is so overwhelming, I'm bursting with pride," he said.
"Me and Ash didn't set out to be nominated for an award. All we wanted to do was to raise as much money as we could for Mind, and, with how the world's been lately, give people that help."
Ashley was also pleased saying it was "a total shock" to be nominated.
"Obviously when we set out to do this fundraising, it was all about raising money and awareness for a fantastic charity, this is obviously still the case but to be recognised for the efforts we are making is great and we cant thank those who nominated us enough," he added.
The rest of the year to go
With still just under half the year to go Ashley and Adam are setting their aims on reaching the £10,000 mark now.
A footgolf event is planned, and a big celebration with a raffle of prizes is also in the works to finish the fundraising off.
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The importance of the cause they are raising for has remained ever more important the further they have gone on.
"It would be great if everyone was happy every day of their life but that unfortunately is just human nature," said Ashley.
"It is important to remember there are people who are willing to listen, sometimes those you would least expect it from but it is always important to open up and talk to people.."
Adam also wanted to encourage people to have the motto "It's okay to not be okay".
"It sounds a bit cliché, but it's exactly that, if you need to talk, talk," he said.
"The fabulous work that Mind do [and] the money they receive from people helps, and that's what it's all about."
You can donate to Ashley and Adam's fundraising page here.