Chesterfield nurse opens up about mental health battle amid pandemic as he prepares to run London Marathon dressed as pint of beer

A Chesterfield nurse who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is trying to break the taboo surrounding mental health.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 1:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 1:04 pm

Joan Pons Laplana has opened up about his personal experiences in a bid to get more people to talk about how they are feeling and to seek help when they need it.

The 46-year-old is also raising money for a charity which supports nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants by taking part in the London Marathon while dressed as a pint of beer – and he wants to smash a Guinness World Record.

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Joan Pons Laplana left his office job during the pandemic and went back to the frontline. During the first and second waves he worked in intensive care.

Joan, of Clarence Road, said: “The last two years have been very hard for everybody and especially for me and my frontline NHS colleagues.

“During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was redeployed into the intensive care unit.

“The work was bleak and the experience hit me hard both emotionally and physically.

“I was tired of the broken lives, of the daily tears, of the constant mourning and of seeing people die every day.

Joan is a campaigner for the NHS.

“I was tired tired of having nightmares, of waking up in the middle of the night, of dreaming of the terror in my patient’s eyes and tears running down their cheeks.

“Even I, someone who is not religious, found myself praying as I closed my eyes and took the hands of my patients as if trying to channel my energy to recharge them.

“As I passed the sponge through every corner of their skin, I prayed that my patients would get better, even if only a little.

“Each death leaves a scar on your heart and you realise your own mortality – inside your head you always have a little voice constantly telling you that you could be next.”

Joan will run next month's London Marathon dressed as a pint of beer.

Joan received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder at the end of the second wave.

“Initially I felt like a failure – I was ashamed to have had problems with my mental health,” he added.

“But thanks to the support available in my hospital, I started therapy straightaway and gradually regained my balance.

“With the help of the psychologist, I came to understand that mental imbalance is nothing to be ashamed of.

Joan earlier on in the pandemic when people were urged to stay at home to help save lives and protect the NHS.

“I realised that stress and anxiety are illnesses that can affect everyone.

“Since then, I have been raising awareness around mental health and trying to break the taboo surrounding opening up about mental health.

“Taking care of mental health is not a weakness – quite the opposite.

“The bravest thing a person can do is ask for help when they need it.”

"The most important learning I’ve done is knowing that mental health is as important as physical health.

“You need to allow yourself to recognise your feelings and learn to share.”

Following a new year resolution and as part of his recovery plan, Joan started to run – and on February 8 he received an email congratulating him on getting a place in the 2021 London Marathon, which takes place on October 3.

Joan said: “That was the goal I needed and I have regularly been training hard ever since.

“I have also joined my local running club and since February I have lost more than three stone – but the most important thing is that my mental health and physical health have improved significantly.”

In July, Joan became the first man to climb to the top of Mount Snowden in Wales dressed as a pint of beer.

He will wear the same comical costume for next month’s marathon – and he hopes to beat the Guinness World Record as the fastest man to run a marathon dressed as a pint of beer.

Joan wants to raise £10,000 for the Cavell Trust, which helps nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, both working and retired, when they are suffering personal or financial hardship.

“Unfortunately I’m not the only frontline worker who has been struggling,” he said.

“For that reason I am trying to raise as much money as possible for the Cavell Trust.

“I’m inviting people to support my incredible challenge by donating the price of a pint via my Virgin Money page at https://bit.ly/3CikQkT – or by texting CHEERSNURSE to 70085 and £4 will be donated to the Cavell Trust.

“This is the perfect opportunity for people to say thanks to all nurses and frontline staff who have work tirelessly during the pandemic to fight one of the deadliest viruses in human history.”

The week before the London Marathon, Joan will also be running the Sheffield Half Marathon to raise awareness of the Cavell Trust – and to make the final adjustments to his costume.

Getting help

- Speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust

- Call the Derbyshire Mental Health Helpline and Support Service, which is open 24 hours per day, seven days a week, on 0800 028 0077

- Call the Samaritans for free any time on 116 123 or email [email protected]

- Use the Staying Safe website for support, information and making your own safety plan

- Contact NHS 111, though be aware of delays in accessing this service

- Make an urgent appointment to see your GP, who may be operating a callback service

- Ring 999

- If you require urgent medical intervention, go to your nearest emergency department, though be aware that there are increased demands on and transmission risks in emergency departments at this time

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