James Morgan is no stranger to the impact of mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts.
Having battled with his mental health since his early teens, James found himself in a “black hole”, admittedly getting through much of his younger years by partying and painting a smile on his face. Eventually the disguise became harder to keep up and James encountered a major setback in 2011 and again in 2014 when he was forced to face his struggles.
In the years following, James spent a lot of time rebuilding himself, working on his health, his happiness, and his outlook on life. In 2014, he discovered a passion for long-distance running that has since become a lifeline for him. Running has become not just a way to stay physically fit, but a way to cope with and overcome his own personal battles with mental health and recovery.
“In 2014 I decided to take up running because it helped a lot with my anxiety and from there it just escalated,” James says. “I’ve since run 30 marathons, six 50kms and loads of running events. I like to set myself crazy running challenges, like in 2016 I set myself the challenge to run 300km in five days. It helps me set my mind on something and I get a great buzz from it – so if I can do that and make a difference too, it’s amazing.”
As a father to an 11-year-old son, James knows first-hand the importance of raising awareness about mental health and promoting suicide prevention in young people. Using his own experiences, he has become an advocate for suicide prevention awareness, using his love for running as a platform to spread hope and inspire others to seek help and support when they need it most.
In late 2022, while considering his next challenge, James knew it needed to be a big one. He’d ran marathons aplenty and even had a number of ultras under his belt, so he wanted something which would challenge him like never before, and he wanted an impactful cause to dedicate it to. Having previously completed events and raised money for charities including Mind, Children with Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer, James decided for his biggest challenge to date he would be running in aid of PAPYRUS.
“As a society we’re great at talking about mental health, but we don’t talk about suicide,” James shares. “The reason I chose PAPYRUS is because I find we’re always talking about anxiety and mental illness, but the suicide word is always taboo – it’s always that word that people never want to say and will only come out when something bad happens.
“I even lied to myself for many years about how I was feeling, and I know a lot of people in my town – particularly younger lads – who have taken their own lives. Because of this, I realised I really wanted to raise money for this charity which is actually trying to do something about it and is talking about suicide.”
In January this year, after months of preparation and training, James left his house in Shrewsbury at 6am in the morning and set off with a goal of running 100 miles in under 30 hours.
This was no easy feat, but James was determined to prove to himself and others that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. The challenge was not just about doing another crazy event which he could add to his list; it was about getting people talking about suicide, getting comfortable using the word and normalising talking about it.
With every mile he drew upon his personal strength and resilience, knowing that he was running not just for himself but for a cause greater.
“I’ll tell you exactly what kept me going,” James shares. “What got me through was knowing the cause of what I was doing it for. It was a ridiculously hard challenge, but it doesn’t even compare to what many people go through when they lose someone because of suicide.
“The whole day was an accumulation of everything I had been through since I was 13 and this was something I really want to make a difference in. It was all about the ‘why’, and the ‘why’ was because I wanted to raise money for PAPYRUS, and I wanted that money to go to ensuring the amazing people who work on HOPELINE247 can make as much of a difference as possible.”
Throughout his journey, he was met with incredible support from his friends, family, colleagues and local community, many of whom joined him for sections of his run. He pushed through the pain, fatigue, and mental challenges that come with such a gruelling feat and in just over 24 hours after leaving his front door, he crossed the finish line.
Completing the 100 miles in 24 hours, 38 minutes and 28 seconds, James not only smashed his goal for time, but after raising over £800 for PAPYRUS, he smashed his fundraising target, too.
James said, “One of the reasons I love long distance running and crazy challenges is because it incorporates overcoming adversity and not giving up.
“You just have to tell yourself to keep going and you can overcome it, you can get stronger. The first time I ran 15 miles, I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I did, and it made me that little bit stronger to then run 17 miles. It’s almost a metaphor of life, you’ve just got to keep going, even when things get hard and you don’t think you can do it, you just keep going and you can do it. That’s one of the reasons I love running.
“This was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I knew I needed to keep going. I’m just incredibly proud of the money I raised because it was much more than I was expecting, and it is an incredible cause. The people on the PAPYRUS helpline can literally be the difference between life and death which is incredible. They are literally lifesavers.”
James’s story is one of personal triumph and a commitment to making a difference in the world. Through his advocacy for suicide prevention awareness and his passion for running, he has shown that with resilience and determination, anyone can overcome their personal struggles, rebuild their futures, and find hope.