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Tuesday, 27 October 2020


Hollyoaks star’s 50km Ultramarathon for Mental Health Unit

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An actor moved by the feedback he’s received after portraying a character with depression is now fundraising for a mental health cause.

Ashley Taylor Dawson has been performing a depression storyline as his character Darren Osborne on the hit Channel 4 show Hollyoaks. Darren was suffering in silence for months and even considered taking his own life before finally reaching out and speaking to Mandy.

Since Darren’s storyline began late last year, Ashley has been contacted by fans of the show who have been sharing their own struggles with mental health issues and Ashley has even set up a YouTube channel to give a platform to those seeking help.

Now Ashley and pal Jay are taking on the monster challenge of an Ultramarathon – a 50km run – all to raise money for Galaxy House, a children’s and adolescent mental health (CAMHS) inpatient unit at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Ashley visiting patients at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital – Xmas 2017. Photo copyright Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

Ashley explained:

“What Darren has been going through has been awful – I can’t even imagine what that would be like for someone of a younger age.

“Learning about mental health more through Darren has really made me start to realise that we just don’t talk about this enough. Mental health should be something we’re openly discussing from an early age.

“People still get funny about words like ‘counselling’, ‘mental health’ and ‘depression’.

“If something goes wrong with your car you get it sorted because you know something dangerous might happen later on if you don’t. But for some reason, we don’t have that same attitude when it comes to our minds.”

Ashley, who is a dad to three boys, has been an avid supporter of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for a number of years. He is a patron of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity and last year took part in the Charity’s daredevil challenge: Humphrey’s Heroes Abseil.

This time he has chosen to fundraise for Galaxy House: a 12-bed inpatient unit for children and adolescents which has living and dining facilities as well as therapy rooms and outdoor spaces.

Ashley Taylor Dawson with sons Buddy Mac and Mason Mac. Photo copyright Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

He said:

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the people who have contacted me since Darren’s depression storyline started. Even people who don’t watch the show much have contacted me to say they have connected with it and opened up to me. And people I’ve known for years have told me things which I had no idea about. It obviously resonates with a lot of people.

“Everyone is going through a particularly hard time right now. So now more than ever it’s important that we look at the issue and how we can all get better education around mental health issues. I honestly believe that means this should start in schools. Normalise it while we’re young and we will grow up knowing it’s perfectly fine to seek help.

“I know for some there is this old school belief that you have to ‘be tough’ but that just makes people think this sort of thing is abnormal. It’s not. And it’s okay to not be okay.”

Ashley will be doing the Ultramarathon run with his friend Jay Parlane on Saturday, 4th July. The friends have chosen a route around Cheshire. They have only been running together properly since the start of lockdown and the furthest they have ever run is 20km.

Ashley said:

“I’ve been asked before to take part in a marathon before but the thought of all that training and running made me feel sick and just sounded horrendous.

“Since the lockdown, I’ve found that running has helped me clear my mind when days have been hard and given me the clarity of mind to focus my passion and energy in the right direction.

“I wanted to do something to help raise more awareness for mental health and of course support the incredible Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. 

“I’ve always been pretty gung-ho about making decisions. In my head, I just thought if I’m going to spend that many hours running anyway, instead of doing a marathon why not just do an Ultramarathon. Yes, I know… think before you open your mouth Ash! DOH! But I’m doing it now and that’s that! 

“Now the charity is involved it is really important to me so now there is no backing out… I will crawl if I have too! Please help me raise as much as possible for an amazing cause.”

Jay and Ashley chose the 4th July to tie in the NHS birthday weekend. The day after, 5th July will mark 72 years of the NHS. It’s fitting the duo are raising money for the children’s hospital as it’s one of ten hospitals that form the largest NHS Trust in the country – Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. One of the other hospitals in the Trust’s family is Trafford General Hospital – the birthplace of the NHS.

The pair have set up a JustGiving Page and aim to raise £7,200 to tie the event in with the 72 Birthday theme.

Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity’s parent organisation, is hosting a #72for72NHS campaign throughout July as part of the birthday celebrations. Fundraisers who would like to support all or any of the hospitals in the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust can choose to fundraise £72 or do fundraising activities around the 72 theme. The hospitals you can fundraise for include Manchester Royal Infirmary, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Wythenshawe Hospital and the birthplace of the NHS, Trafford General Hospital.

Sarah Naismith, Director of Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, said:

“Ashley has been a supporter of ours for a long time and it’s always such a delight to see him at one of our events. He was a bit of a daredevil when he did our abseil last year but a 50km run is just something else!

“We’re so proud to have him taking part in such a special month for us. Our #72for72NHS campaign is so important for our Trust – we’re home to the birthplace of the NHS and the largest Trust in the country. There really is no better time to get involved in some fundraising for our wonderful and inspirational NHS hospitals.

“Of course, anyone else who wants to join in the #72for72NHS campaign doesn’t have to do something as drastic as a 50km run – big or small, we’d love to hear all about your fundraising and what inspired you to get involved.”

To find out more about the #72for72NHS campaign visit www.mftcharity.org.uk.

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