One in four adults experience mental illness, and many more of us know and care for people who do. Talking openly about how we feel can help.
This is where the Medicine Ball Challenge comes in….
Created by a serving soldier and former officer who have seen their families and friends struggle with mental health, the Medicine Ball Challenge is about starting conversations - encouraging people to speak freely about mental health while undertaking the 7 day challenge.
The challenge involves cuffing a 3kg Medicine Ball to your wrist for 7 days. It may not sound that heavy but being chained to the medicine ball continuously for seven days is a significant burden. The ball becomes a physical, visual and tangible representation of the invisible burden of mental health so many of us can experience.
The aim of the Medicine Ball Challenge is to raise awareness and encourage people to talk openly. It's about creating powerful conversations. Taking part in this challenge could be transformative and will definitely help the Army Benevolent Fund and Combat Stress to support those in difficulty.
How does the challenge work?
Currently, there are only 11 Medicine Balls in circulation so when you sign up, you may join a waiting list. We are encouraging participants to meet up in person to handover the medicine ball once your 7 day challenge is over (subject to COVID-19 Government guidance). This offers a great opportunity to start the conversations about mental health straight away and allows you to share some top tips for being cuffed to the medicine ball to the next participant.
We have split the UK into 11 teams to make it as easy as possible to meet up to collect the medicine ball when you start the challenge and hand it over at the end of your 7 day challenge. When signing up to the challenge, we ask that you agree to travel up to an hour each way to collect and then handover the medicine ball. We also ask that you agree to your contact details being shared with the next participant so you can arrange meeting up. If you really can't meet up, just get in touch in touch and we can send you postage.
Once you recieve the medicine ball, simply cuff it to your wrist and off you go. We recommend wearing a sweat band or something similar underneath the cuff to prevent it rubbing. The idea is to keep the medicine ball cuffed to your wrist for the whole 7 days (apart from sleeping, showering, driving and any other activity that may be be dangerous).
Have a read through the rest of the site to find out more but if you have any questions, please email MBC@armybenevolentfund.org
Coralie & Adam
Total raised since the inception of the Medicine Ball Challenge in 2018..
Total number of people who have signed up to carry the Medicine Ball since 2018.
The Medicine Ball Challenge raises money for the following two charities. When you register for the challenge, a fundraising page is automatically created for you which is easy to share with friends and family. Any money raised on your page is split between the two charities. There is no minimum sponsorship target. Anything you raise will be hugely appreciated and will help make a real difference to many lives.
We are the Army’s national charity, here for soldiers, veterans and their families for life.
Since 1944, we’ve been at the forefront of support for the Army family. We are one of the largest funders in the sector, reaching 60,000 people and funding over 43 charities and organisations last year. We are here to support the Army family through life’s challenges - whether that involves bereavement, injury, getting back to work, elderly care, and much more besides.
Our beneficiaries ranged from age two to 103 last year. When you support us, you support the whole Army family.
We are Combat Stress. The UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.
For over a century we’ve been helping former servicemen and women deal with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Today we provide specialist treatment and support for veterans from every service and conflict, focusing on those with complex mental health issues.
We’re on a mission to raise awareness that invisible injuries can be just as hard to cope with as physical ones. So when a veteran is having a tough time, we’re there to help them tackle the past and take on the future.
Our 24-hour Helpline 0800 138 1619 provides confidential advice and support to veterans and their families
One of the main messages behind the Medicine Ball Challenge is to encourage everyone to talk more with one another. Whether it's simply asking how someone is, or finding the voice to speak up and say, I'm not ok.
That's why, we want to encourage you to handover the Medicine Ball to the next participant in person. Meeting up in person, creates a great opportunity to not only talk about how you found the challenge, but it gives you the chance to have a chat with someone that you otherwise, would probably never meet.
Each team represents a region of the UK. Select a team when you sign up, and then you will only have to meet up with someone else in that team, so it shouldn't be more than an hour away each if you meet in the middle.
If you are looking to take part in the challenge over a particular date or as part of a wider challenge, please get in touch on email@example.com
The Medicine Ball Challenge was created by Andy Unwin in November 2018, with Andrew Perkins coming on board as the challenge grew momentum in early 2019.
"Over the years I have lost many friends and team mates to suicide because of their mental ill health and their inability to reach out and ask for help. My father has also suffered with severe depression and anxiety since I was a young boy so I have always been truly passionate about making a difference and getting people talking about their mental health.
The catalyst for me to come up with the Medicine Ball Challenge was the death of a soldier from my old unit who committed suicide whilst serving in Estonia. I had been his section commander on a previous operational tour to Afghanistan and he was truly one of the happiest and cheerful people I knew, no one knew that he was suffering. His death was the final straw and I knew I needed to do something more. I got my inspiration one night whilst sitting in my living room - I wanted something that would be a physical representation of the invisible burden people with mental health have to carry with them."
"So I thought, it's a weight - a burden, then thought okay what exactly is a weight? What can I use? After racking my brain I settled on a medicine ball. My initial idea was to carry a medicine ball for 2 weeks and encourage others to take part. But I thought this was too easy because at any point I could just put the medicine ball down. But if you're struggling with mental ill health you can't just put that invisible weight down. It was this that gave me the inspiration to use the handcuffs and chain because it meant I would be carrying the burden all of the time!"
Finally, I wanted to find a date which would honour my friend and thought that launching the challenge on International Mens Day in 2018 would be the best way to do this. I wore the ball constantly for two weeks encouraging others to take part. It's message really resonated with people and so began the journey that continues years later.
During that time I have been fortunate to pick up a partner in the challenge. Andy Perkins got involved early in 2019 inspired by the journey his wife has travelled as she grappled with severe anxiety and post-natal depression. He came at a time when I was struggling to keep up with the huge demand of people wanting to take on the challenge. Andy who has a passion and tenacity equal to my own offered his help which I gladly accepted. He was just what I, and the challenge needed. Together we pushed to keep fighting to raise awareness of mental ill health.
RAF Red Arrows take military mental health challenge over £100,000 ahead of Eastbourne Airshow
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, have taken on The Medicine Ball Challenge, devised to represent the burden of mental health problems, in the build up to the Eastbourne International Airshow (17-20 August) to raise money for military charities Combat Stress, the UK’s leading veterans’ mental health charity, and the Army Benevolent Fund.
If you'd like to donate to the Red Arrows fundraising effort please click here
The challenge, involves being handcuffed to a 3kg medicine ball for seven days, to act as a physical representation of the unseen burden of both civilian and military mental health issues. It’s hoped that the conversations the ball provokes will encourage people to discuss mental health issues and seek help if they need it.
On Monday 14 August (the week of the airshow), both the Red Arrows’ Officer Commanding, Wing Commander Adam Collins, and Senior Engineering Officer, Squadron Leader Chris Phipps, will officially take up their respective medicine balls, aptly and competitively named the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ balls but have already taken the overall challenge total (since its inception) over the £100,000 mark!
Their challenge will culminate at the Eastbourne Airshow, where Red 10 (Squadron Leader Graeme Muscat) will be talking about the challenge in the team’s display commentary. Both Wg Cdr Collins and Sqn Ldr Phipps will be present at the military village with their medicine ball in tow on one of the show’s four days, before concluding on the final day with an official ‘uncuffing’ and handover of the balls back to the charities.
Wg Cdr Collins, said: “I am delighted to be taking part in the medicine ball challenge, helping to promote Combat Stress and ABF and the amazing work they carry out.
“Awareness and attitudes towards mental health have changed for the better over recent years, but it’s vital that specialist treatment and support is available to those that need it and, more importantly, they feel that they can ask for it.
“Military personnel can be exposed to stress and pressure, sometimes in extreme scenarios which make them more susceptible to mental health difficulties – supporting these charities is a great way to helping those suffering to have access to the support they need”.
Sqn Ldr Phipps said: “I’m delighted the Red Arrows are partnering with this great cause – and privileged to be participating in this extremely worthwhile challenge to showcase the importance of specialist treatment and support for those with mental health problems.
“Having previously served in operational theatres, I’m familiar with the understandable strain and pressures colleagues can face in exceptional circumstances carrying out extraordinary, vital work. It is often the case that mental health issues may not be immediate apparent. We are all unique individuals and mental health impacts us all at different times in life and in different ways.
“The charities enhance care given to former service people and I hope this challenge will encourage even more individuals to understand this crucial work, its life-saving difference and contribute towards its continued support.”
Jeff Harrison, CEO at Combat Stress, said: “We are extremely grateful to the Red Arrows for taking on the medicine ball challenge, and driving conversations around mental health. It was also fantastic to see them already help take the challenge over the £100,000 mark.
“We are looking forward to greeting them at the airshow and hope their efforts will encourage more of the public to take on the challenge!”
Brigadier (Ret’d) Peter Monteith, Chief Operating Officer, the Army Benevolent Fund, said: “Improving the mental health and wellbeing of soldiers and veterans is a priority for the Army Benevolent Fund. We are enormously grateful to the Red Arrows for raising awareness of this important issue by getting involved in the Medicine Ball Challenge and raising funds for our charity. We already fund many specialist charities in this area and will continue to do so, both now and into the future.”
The RAF tent in the military village will also feature a ‘try on’ medicine ball, to give attendees the chance to experience for themselves what the challenge, and the burden, is like.
Steve carried the ball for two weeks - walking the dog, donating blood and at work. It started many conversations about mental health with his colleagues, friends, family and others he met along the way. Steve said 'If people see your burden, they offer you help & support; doors held open, coffees carried, chairs moved, chairs reserved to put the MBC onto gently - as it is basically a wrecking ball!! A few interested conversations, but some strange & quiet moments in the lifts, people looking, but not knowing what to say or what to ask; very much like Mental Health I think - I used to think everyone was looking at me, paranoid in my own head, now the MBC means I can show them a hidden burden, it’s out in the open, no need to hide it, so they are looking, but looking to help
Photos provided by Steve
"The generosity of all those who have donated is astounding and I am unbelievably grateful to all of those that got behind with their kind words of support. But what has really blown me away is the amount of engagement I’ve experienced. I’ve lost count of the times i have been stopped whilst walking the dog, at the shops and on the gym floor over the past fortnight. From members of the public, gym members, shop assistant and people on social media, all have stopped and asked or sent messages about the med ball. This has then opened up conversations about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. Some people wanted to talk about the challenge and how they could get involved. Others shared personal experiences with mental health and mental illness.
I feel that the purpose behind the ball, (who some gym members have called Wilson) really has achieved the aim of getting people talking about mental health and removing the stigma that is sometimes attached to it.”
Read a few more of our larger challenges here.
How heavy is the medicine ball?
The medicine ball weighs 3kg but you need to also add on a bit more to take into consideration the weight of the chain and the handcuffs.
How long is the challenge?
The challenge is 7 days. You can take the medicine ball off to sleep, shower, drive and anything you think is dangerous to complete whilst being cuffed to the medicine ball.
My friend wants to take part in the Medicine Ball Challenge, can I just pass it on to them when I have completed my 7 days?
Great to hear your friend wants to get involved too. Please ask them to sign up on our website. Each medicine ball has it's own waiting list for someone else in the area. We also need to know who the medicine ball is with so we can keep track of it.
Do I have to pay to take part?
There is an optional registration fee of £10
How do I arrange meeting up with someone to collect the medicine ball?
We will send out contact details for the person you are meeting to collect the medicine ball from. You can then contact them to arrange a suitable time and location to meet up.
How old do I have to be to take part in the challenge?
You must be 18 and over to take part in the Medicine Ball Challenge
I can't meet up with the next participant to handover the medicine ball, what do I need to do?
If you can't meet in person to handover the medicine ball, please get in contact with us on firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. We can then send postage to cover sending the medicine ball to the next participant.
Do I have to fundraise if I take part in the Medicine Ball Challenge?
It would be great if you can but there is no minimum sponsorship requirement. The aim of the Medicine Ball Challenge is to raise awareness and encourage people to talk openly, a fundraising page is automatically created for you which is easy to share online with friends and family. Any money you raise will be split between the Army Benevolent Fund and Combat Stress. You can read more about each charity and how your fundraising will help on the charities tab.
My company is interested in getting involved in the Medicine Ball challenge, how would that work?
Great to hear your company want to get involved in the Medicine Ball Challenge. We are introducing corporate medicine balls which can be passed around within in a company. Please get in touch with us on email@example.com to discuss options.
I'm due to handover the medicine ball but haven't heard back from the next participant. What do I do now?
Please get in contact with us on firstname.lastname@example.org
I am taking part in the Medicine Ball Challenge as part of a wider challenge so need the Medicine Ball on a certain date. Can that work?
Please get in touch with us email@example.com and we'll see what we can do.
Is it safe to take part during the Covid-19 pandemic?
As the Medicine Balls aren't due to be in circulation until Spring 2021, we are hoping restrictions would have lifted or eased by then so taking part in the Medicine Ball Challenge and meeting with other participants to handover the ball will not be a risk for anyone. However, we are continually monitoring the situation and will follow Government guidelines, adapting the challenge to ensure it is safe if necessary.