Today Simon Buckden and Louisa Rodriguez are running to Downing Street. Catherine Scott finds out why.
For nearly ten years Simon Buckden has been raising awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
But today Simon and his partner Louisa Rodriguez are raising the plight of other sufferers of PTSD.
They have put together a book of 70 sufferers of the mental illness from all walks of life and ages.
And the pair are setting off today to run the 200 miles to deliver a copy of the book to 10 Downing Street.
“I have talked about my battle with PTSD for a long time,” says Simon, a former Royal Signalman from Leeds.
“Now it is time to tell other people’s stories and experiences in the hope that something will at least be done to improve the treatment and diagnosis of people with PTSD.”
Simon, 41, was diagnosed with the condition in 2005 which was triggered by the nightmare scenes he witnessed during two tours of Bosnia in the mid-1990s.
He was medically discharged from the army, after nearly 12 years service, in 2001.
The couple founded Positive Action for PTSD last year and it is the first social enterprise of its kind in the country to offer specialist support to people who sufer from the condition.
They gave out an appeal for people with PTSD who were prepared to tell their stories to come forward and they were inundated with responses.
“The stories are very harrowing but inspiring at the same time,” says Louisa.
“It is a real honour that people have felt able to share their stories with us, this run is about them and making sure their voices are heard. It is time for better awareness of this unseen condition and how it can affect people’s lives.
“It is just heartbreaking but we hope that they will have an impact.”
Simon said that very few servicemen came forward instead they had victims of child abuse and rape, people who had lost children in car crashes and also members of the emergency services, as well as a carer of someone with PTSD.
“They all said a pretty similar thing that treatment of PTSD on the NHS is not good enough and that they would like to see better training for GPs in how to handle and diagnose people with PTSD,” says Simon, who is no stranger to running, having pledged to run 100 marathons in 100 weeks.
A cancer diagnosis caused him to cut short his challenge at 44 marathons, although he had pledged to continue.
Simon and Louisa are set to run between 30 and 40 miles a day as part of the 200-mile challenge from Leeds to London, taking in a number of cities along the way.
“It is just our way of doing things,” says Simon. “We couldn’t just take it down on the train. This way we get to spread the awareness across the country.”
And once they have been to Downing Street they will then run to the Houses of Parliament to address MPs about the impact of PTSD.
“It’s a big challenge but we hope that we can raise awareness down the country,” says Louisa.
“The stories keep us motivated and give us the passion to keep going.”
For Simon, it is important to have Louisa with him.
“We run as equals,” he says. “That is very important to me. We are wearing special socks and we will both be wearing one pink one and one blue one to show how equal we are.”
Louisa has a particular interest in female suffers of PTSD and also in the carers of people with the condition.
“We want to create a national awareness about PTSD and encourage the Government to look at what positive changes can be created to improve things,” she says.
“It’s time for change and for people to know about the condition as well as changing the stigma that surrounds it.”
“We didn’t want to just do an e-petition as I don’t think they work,” continues Simon.
“These stories are unashamedly emotional and harrowing at times. They are a trigger for me and that’s why Louise has mainly been in charge of putting it together. We had so many people come forward wanting to tell their stories that we couldn’t include them all so I think we may do another book.”
The couple are set to start their challenge in Leeds today and it is expected to take them six days to run to the capital.