Ordinary people living extraordinary lives: Ruth Fox

Alison Laycock

Today Ruth launches her book ‘Within the white lines’ in which she shares her experience with mental illness. Ruth continues to give talks up and down the country to schools and other organisations as she mentions in this interview. She certainly belongs in this category of ‘Ordinary people living extraordinary lives’.   

Ruth is a Mental Health Advocate and public speaker, an Ambassador for Mental Health  Football Association and also plays for Cambridge United Women’s Football club. At only 19 years old, what she has achieved over the last few months and her commitment to making a positive impact in society is extremely inspiring.

Since this interview took place, Ruth has set up her own JustGiving page in order to raise money to continue to do the work she is so passionate about. If you would like to support her in this initiative, please donate on justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ruth-fox

Read on to learn more about Ruth.   

AL: There are a lot of people out there living extraordinary lives without others knowing them or their stories. Do you agree that you belong in this category?

RF: No, I don’t see myself as being extraordinary or any different to others in terms of what I am doing. I’m just a normal person with a story, a message and a voice to be able to talk about it. I’m doing what I think is right and if I can help others through my story then I will do my best to do just that. 

AL: How would you describe yourself personally and professionally?

RF: Personally, I’m a bubbly, determined and ambitious person who gives 100% to everything I try and I love sport especially football. As I’m only 19, I find it hard to see myself in terms of my professional life as it is only beginning. However, I aspire to reach two goals each day and they are to reach my full potential and to also reach as many people as I can through using my experiences in mental health to ensure others don’t have to go through the same things I did.    

AL: What’s a typical day for you, if there is one? 

RF: No, to be honest there are no 2 days similar to each other but my days can consist of:   interviews in Cambridge and other media events, meetings with Michael Bennett, Director of Player welfare at the PFA and gym sessions. I also have meetings with my editor about manuscript or go to Newark where my publishing company are based. Some days I give talks in schools to students and also to teachers at education events which I’ll be doing over the next couple of days in Newcastle. During the football season, I also have matches and training during the evenings.

AL: Out of all your achievements, what are you most proud of? 

RF: The one I’m most proud of was during the 1st talk I ever gave in March at Cambridge United Community trust for a Mental Health Awareness evening. In the Q and A part at the end, a guy stood up and said ‘thank you for saving my life’. He had read my story and had driven from Watford to Cambridge to say thank you. There is nothing more special than being able to save someone else’s life. It’s quite surreal really to go from struggling in own life to then being able to help others.

AL: What are you currently involved in?

RF: I’m an Ambassador for the Mental Health Football Association. Through this, I met Neville Southall who read my story and now also does mental health work. I worked for 3 months with the Cambridge United trust in social media and working on diversity and inclusion. Through the Cambridge United Trust, I organised the Mental Health Awareness evening and also gave a talk. There is more support needed for players as their emotional and mental health needs are just as important as their physical health, however there isn’t much knowledge or support available in clubs and that needs to be improved. Through Trigger publishing, who have links with Shaw Mind Foundation, I’m now also on the advisory board for young people and we meet regularly and I’m going to be in a brochure on public speakers for them. 

AL: What makes you want to get involved?

RF: I get involved because of what I have personally been through due to my personal experience with mental health struggles. I’ve been able to reflect on this and have gained perspective on the ways I can impact people who are also struggling. Any fears of talking in front of people or on the radio disappear when I think that, if just one person gets a message from what I’m saying whether that be in their own lives or they gain a greater insight into someone else’ s struggles, then it’s worth it. I I can overcome my fears and have an ability to help others then I will do it. 

I know that I need to learn to say no more despite being a yes person as I need to protect myself so I can continue doing this type of work and help others as much as I can. Due to the real support I received from teachers at school, I want to also give back as through that support I know I was able to talk without being judged for how I was feeling. That can make a real difference to people who are struggling through the day. One of my teachers, Mr Donoghue stands out as someone who really helped and was always there to listen to me when I needed time to talk.

AL: Which areas are important to you? 

RF: There are many areas which are important to me, however I get more involved in mental health as it’s an area I know and feel I can make an impact within it. So within Mental Health, I want to work within three areas: Education, Football and the Mental Health System. 

In terms of Education, I want to make sure all students and teachers receive training on mental health in terms of their own lives and those around them. Through giving talks in schools, I hope that students will gain more skills around how to recognise they need to ask for help and also how to access it. 

In Football, I would like to see all coaches receiving mental health training. Player’s mental and emotional health is just as important as their physical health which is why I’m talking with Michael Bennett and looking to also promote it from a young female perspective.

Within the Mental health system, I feel I was let down at many stages as although I had asked for help, there are many gaps in the help I was given throughout my struggle. This isn’t just waiting times of 6 months and more but also through lack of referrals which was especially when I turned 18 and wasn’t referred on to Adult services. Being prescribed medication simply hides the symptoms but it doesn’t solve the underlying issues which is what is needed to improve. I’ve met with my local MP, Alistair Burt and told him about the gaps within the system which can have a negative impact on young people seeking help.  

AL: Who and what inspires you?

RF: I am inspired by the people who have stuck by me in my darkest hour. They believed in me and saw something in me which I didn’t or couldn’t see myself. The support I received from teachers was great especially in showing that my struggles and emotions didn’t change who I was or how they treated me. I never felt alone. Now I want to have the same impact on others as no-one deserves to go through what I’ve gone through, alone. I want to show people that whatever they are going through, it can get better. 

AL: Can you imagine a time when you don’t get involved?

RF: I’ll maybe take time to travel at some point, however in the future I can always see myself being involved in this area in some way as long as I can be financially secure. 

AL: You talk openly about Mental Health and your awareness of your own Mental Health, what advice would you share with those struggling in their lives?

RF: It’s important to talk about your struggles. It doesn’t have to be with someone professional but someone that you trust. There is no shame in reaching out and it’s ok to not be ok so reach out if you’re struggling with anything. 

I’ve developed lots of awareness of myself from my difficult times such as acceptance: and that how I feel on any given day is ok whatever emotion I feel it’s ok to feel it. I also took it day by day for 18 months simply to get through and sometimes that is all the you can do. 

AL: What is next for you, personally and professionally?

RF: Personally, I’ll be focussing on my football career. Professionally, I want to settle down in a career and be financially secure. I also want to work within mental health with young people. In terms of long term plans, I’m also thinking of becoming a  teacher and hope to emulate my own teachers.

In the short term, my book is coming out in September and I have more talks up and down the country. I want to work on developing further the work I’m already doing within Mental Health so I’d like to work on a documentary of my story and develop my own website and do a podcast offering help and advice for those who are struggling. I can also imagine doing mental health support work in some form. 

AL: What skills would you like to develop? 

RF: I’d like to improve my public speaking in a professional way in order to reach more people. Business skills would be a good area to develop and consolidate such as promoting a business and setting up a brand. I’m always open to learning and make the most out of every opportunity so I would also like to network more and receive support and advice on how to achieve the things I would like to do. 

AL: What can you offer organisations who could employ you or fund your work? 

RF: I have a passion for helping people and I aspire to have a big impact in society.  I’m a high level sport and academic achiever and always want to do my best and achieve the goals I set myself. Through my experience I have a unique perspective on aspects of life and I have gained a lot of self-awareness through being open about the vulnerable times I’ve experienced.  

There are so many ideas I have to take this work forward and to reach as many people as I can and it would be great to receive financial backing in order to achieve these.  

AL: Now that our readers know of some of your work, where can people find you?

RF: They can email me at foxruth@yahoo.co.uk  or simply interact with me on twitter: FoxInTheBox05  instagram: @ruth_foxy. 

Thanks to Ruth for her time. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know Ruth and her work as much as I did. 

Since this interview took place, Ruth has set up her own JustGiving page in order to raise money to continue to do the work she is so passionate about. If you would like to support her in this initiative, please donate on justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ruth-fox

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