Words & pictures by WO2 (SMI) Peter Russell/County PR Officer
SSI Sara Morrell, Platoon Commander at Wincanton Platoon, Salamanca Company, has just undertaken a great challenge, encouraged in part by an inspiring talk given by Army Cadets’ Command Sergeant Major WO1 David Lightfoot who outlined where his world might have gone if he hadn’t first escaped his life as a troubled teenager by joining Army Cadets before making his career in the British Army.
Sara has bravely taken on the Medicine Ball Challenge, created by co-founders Staff Sgt Andy Unwin and Captain Andy Perkins who thought up the challenge after seeing friends, colleagues and loved ones struggle with mental health. Tragically, Andy Unwin’s wife took her own life and Andy Perkins’ wife has struggled with her mental health for several years. Both felt compelled to make a difference and get people talking about military and civilian mental health issues and the support available. In this task Sara is actively supported and encouraged by PI Melanie Houghton and all the Platoon’s cadets.
The challenge involves handcuffing a 3kg medicine ball to the participant’s wrist for seven days - to only be removed where the ball could be a dangerous hazard. It may not sound heavy, but being chained to a medicine ball continuously for a week is a significant ordeal. The weight of the ball becomes a physical, visual and tangible representation of the invisible burden of mental illness.
Sara says, “The Medicine Ball Challenge is very close to my heart. I’ve seen so many people I care about go through mental health struggles and some not make it through the other side. I wanted to raise awareness and encourage people to talk openly about their problems. Seeing someone handcuffed to the ball is such an unusual sight that I hope it will provoke people to ask questions. I am raising funds for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Combat Stress that both do important work to help those that need it the most.”
Sara continues, “A little bit about me and why this challenge means is so close to my heart. I spent most of my teenage years being bullied and victimised by my peers - verbally abused - which made me feel utterly worthless and in turn my self esteem was always in deficit. I got to a point in my life where I thought, ’I don’t care what other people think I'm happy in my skin.’ One of my biggest challenges was not only being bullied, I was battling with my identity. I was never into boys like my friends and peers; I often questioned it and tried to fit in and have a boyfriend but it never felt right. I eventually come out and to terms with my sexuality when I was roughly 20 and I cannot express the relief to finally be ME and embrace it.To this day I’m sadly still a victim of homophobic behaviour. I am a massive ambassador for helping others through their confusions, supporting others to beat the stigma and the small minded individuals, - just be you!A little over six years ago I faced a life changing battle. I had minor surgery which unfortunately lead to tissue on my shoulder becoming gangrenous, I had emergency surgery and two other surgeries and still to this day have nightmares and relive all the fear I faced during that week. I thought my life was over. I was then faced with the recovery, years of knock backs, but always proving to the doctors I'm strong. I lost almost all the function of my arm but with my strong will and determination I faced up to my battles.
A lot of people know about my surgery but only those close to me know I suffer from PTSD. My wife has spent many nights calming me from night terrors. My wife throughout my ordeal has been and continues to be my rock and I certainly could not have faced it with out her.
Sara concludes by saying, “Don't suffer in silence and remember, it is okay not to be okay.”
You can help Sara help others by donating to her brilliant cause: https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/saramorrell/medicine-ball-challenge
More information can be found here https://events.soldierscharity.org/event/medicine-ball-challenge/home and here https://combatstress.org.uk