I was a keen sportsman when I first joined the RAF and at the start, I continued my civilian passion for road cycling and rugby league. Unfortunately, over the years, promotions, postings, workload and family commitments meant sport had all but disappeared from my schedule. Life and career aspirations had taken over and without realising it I wasn’t looking after myself mentally or physically.
Then, quite suddenly, my apparently well-structured life fell apart. Several life-changing events in quick succession, including family bereavement, a child with drug addictions and a serious false accusation at work, shut me down emotionally, turned me into a recluse and even made me question my value to the world.
As a result, I compensated by becoming a work addict and hiding from the truth. While I believed I was in control, the truth was my mental wellbeing was at rock bottom and I needed mental health professionals to get myself well again. It took me far too long to get that help but eventually I knew I couldn’t ignore it and went to the doctor.
The road to recovery began with therapy and the astonishing understanding of my family and colleagues. But sport and exercise, supported by the RAF Central Fund, was a critical part of my long-term wellness. The Central Fund is known for funding sport in the RAF, but it less known for their support to those recovering from mental issues with charitable grant funding to help get them active again. They give those in need a chance to find wellbeing and happiness by taking part in their chosen sport, regardless of their standard and regardless of their ability; the important thing is getting those in recovery active.
There is more in all of us, we just need to want it, find it and use it.
With their support, on the 12 Sept 21, I finished my 9-day, 970-mile challenge to cycle from Lands’ End to John O’Groats. This challenge has been achieved by thousands of people before and in faster times, but for me, crossing the finishing line was the end of a personal journey to good mental health and wellbeing. Participation in sport, despite my age and lack of natural talent, has taken me from the low of depression to the high of achievement and from a sense of failure to a sensation of pride and confidence. But most of all, my journey has taught me that we can all use sport to raise our mood and if we stick at it, make the benefits of sport part of our personal and working lives. But first we have to take that difficult step and get involved. There is more in all of us, we just need to want it, find it and use it.
WO Justin ‘Max’ Wall
Bowled over to support RAF cricket in Italy
25th October 2021
19th October 2021
7th October 2021
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Plane pull challengers at RAF Coningsby
Eight teams of six people took on the challenge of pulling the BBMF Dakota, which weighs over 17,000 lbs, over a distance of 92m – that’s the sum of the wingspans of each of the five aircraft types in service with the BBMF.