Minnie is running to make a difference

03 Jul 2024

For PA Hospital staff member Minnie Jang, distance running has become a way to overcome lifelong struggles with mental health – now, it’s also her way of giving back.

Minnie, who has worked as both a nutrition assistant and administration staff member at PA has struggled with mental health since she was a young girl in Korea.

Currently working in administration in the PA’s mental health unit, Minnie said it was the strength of patients being open about dealing with their own struggles and journey of recovery that inspired her to act and be more proactive about her own mental health.

“I have been struggling with mental health over 25 years, suffering from eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, addictive behaviors and many more. It was very difficult time as in my culture, I found that it is very hard to open up to people and share those kinds of problems,” she said.

“It continued after I moved to Australia, I was battling demons and struggling with thoughts of suicide, it pushed me down to a dark black hole that I could never ever escape from…  I’d completely lost myself and hope.

“The turning point for me was when I was on the secondment in mental health last year.  I attended the end of year refresh meeting with patients and staff, and there were patients who told us a story about their own struggles and journey of recovery, and I was in tears.

“It made me think there is hope for me to get better, and I must be brave to break the shell I was in. I must open up and do something for myself to get over my struggles, and to be a better version of me. I also thought that I’d love to help, and to be an inspiration for others.

“There has been ups and downs and it was not easy journey to go on. But I've found that running is like meditation, and I believe it's a natural anti-depressant. Running gives, me a chance to not focus on anything but what was happening right then and there. Just to be present. It relieves a huge amount of stress and helps me get through the day.” she said.

Minnie threw herself into her running, winning first place in the female category in the annual Smiddy Fun Run at the PA Hospital campus, before setting her sights on several more events and raising funds for the mental health ward.

In creating a fundraising page on the PA Foundation website and signing up for the Noosa Marathon, she shared her mental health journey with her colleagues and was overwhelmed with the support she received.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to open up and share my story. I hesitated so much before pressing send button - should I have done that, what are they going to say about me, think about me differently?. But I thought it is time and I wanted to do something meaningful. I believe that it motivates me to continue my journey.”

“From the moment I did share, everyone was very supportive, and it gave me so much courage. I was surprised and overjoyed. I felt like it released all the pressure off my shoulders, and they just accepted me as who I am.”

Spurred on by their support, Minnie finished third in her age group in the Noosa Marathon, and she is now eyeing off future events like the Gold Coast Marathon, Sunshine Coast Marathon, Bridge to Brisbane and Sydney Marathon, as well as retaining her Smiddy Fun Run title in November.

“I’d been doing half marathons and 10K fun runs, the Noosa Marathon was the first time ever running a marathon, to push my limits and go beyond my comfort zone.

“It was an incredible experience, I really enjoyed it and I’m very grateful to everyone who has donated and encouraged me. It was the source of power that I could complete the full marathon with a smile on my face.”

“I would love to share my experience to inspire people just like me or anyone who is struggling in life. Also, to be a positive role model for people with mental health.”

“Going forward I want to keep putting more effort into it so I can make a difference for others and myself. Furthermore, to motivate people, to keep taking one step forward to their finish line and let them know that having an illness does not have to control your whole life and there is hope and support.”

You can donate to Minnie’s efforts to fundraise for the mental health ward at the PA here.