Veterans Shatter Mental Health Stigma at Boston and London Marathons

Pride. Determination. Achievement. These are some of the reoccurring themes felt at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 17, especially for U.S. Veteran Ivan Castro, and UK Veteran Karl Hinett who ran in support of Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Heads Together campaign, raising awareness for military mental health. Like many runners in Boston, Castro and Hinett raised money for charity; in this case, Home Base.

Just six days after completing the Boston Marathon, the two Veterans crossed the Atlantic to run the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon on April 23. Both say they hope Veterans and Service Members from the United States and the UK are inspired to break the stigma and ask for help if they need it.

“We want to change the conversation surrounding mental health. We put so much importance on the physical, and we need to do the same with our minds,” Castro said.  “A lot of military veterans feel the stigma (of mental health) and it’s impacting in a negative way,” Hinett added. “The whole idea is to remove the stigma, to make them aware that it’s okay to say ‘I need help.’”

Both Castro and Hinett understand firsthand the mental health challenges Service Members and Veterans face while home and on deployment. Ivan was blinded during combat. Karl was involved in an attack resulting in 37 percent burns to his hands, legs, arms, and face. Their combined health history includes over 100 hours on the operating table; over 12 months confined to a hospital bed; over 100 surgeries endured. For them, running became a therapy, and both hope that by running with Heads Together, they place a much-needed spotlight on breaking the taboo around asking for mental health help.

All Roads Lead to Boston

As part of their bid to raise awareness, Castro and Hinett made the first pitch at Fenway Park, on April 16, less than 24-hours before their Boston Marathon runs. They were introduced with a special video message from Prince Harry and welcomed on the field by LTG James McConville, Deputy Chief of Staff, who calls the running duo nothing short of inspiring.

“They both went through horrific wounds while in combat, but they have shown the strength of soldiers who never quit, who never accept defeat, who continue on with the mission,” McConville said. “It’s a sign of strength to seek help and there are great organizations, like Home Base, that are available and want to help.”

View highlights from April 16 Boston Red Sox game.

Weather on the Boston Marathon course was balmy on Monday, April 17,  but Team Heads Together braved the infamous Heartbreak Hill up Commonwealth Avenue to finish the Boston Marathon in under five hours, and in perfect step, triumphantly waving the American and British flags.

Representatives from Home Base, the American Royal Foundation, and the Bob Woodruff Foundation were on hand to cheer on the running team as they crossed the Boston Marathon finish line.

View highlights from the 2017 Boston Marathon

London: The Mental Health Marathon

Six days later, on Sunday, April 23, Castro and Hinett completed the second leg of their Heads Together marathon runs at the London Marathon, further proving their unwavering commitment to break down barriers and ensure the people who need care receive care, when and if needed. William Kate, and Harry dubbed the event the “mental health marathon” and more than 700 racers sported blue Heads Together headbands to support the cause.

“Two marathons in a week hurt, but we are doing this for all Veterans and serving brothers who carry the weight of mental health issues every day,” said Hinett. “We all feel pressure on our mental health at some point in our lives and, when we understand this, the better we can support ourselves and each other.”

View highlights from the 2017 London Marathon

Following the London Marathon, Heads Together and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will continue the momentum that has built up to help change the national conversation on mental health. For Home Base, this means leveraging said power of building momentum & strength together to better the lives of people living with mental health challenges. Speaking up about mental health is an essential part of battling stigma, and our voices are amplified when we speak up together.

One of the Home Base’s ongoing success stories has been our leading edge work on mental wellness and paving the way for a bright future and improvement in the lives of those affected by mental health issues in the military community. If you or someone you know is interested in finding out more about the care and support offered by Home Base Veterans, Service Members and Families, call our clinic at 617-724-5202.

To contribute to Castro and Hinett’s #HeadsTogether campaign, or to learn more about their personal stories of perseverance, click here.