IT started as a way of escaping his demons — a release from the depression that for years had dominated his life.

Peter Kearsley started running on the advice of the mental health charity he turned to in a last-ditch attempt to get help.

The 55-year-old enlisted the help of the Bolton-based Mental Health Independent Support Team (MhIST) after a nervous breakdown, the loss of his job and end of his marriage left him hooked on alcohol.

Now he hopes to pay the organisation back by tackling the London Marathon to raise much-needed funds.

Mr Kearsley, from Deane, said: “I am running to show my thanks for all the time and help MhIST have given me. Without their help and support, I don’t know what would have happened. I want to pay them back.”

Mr Kearsley, who worked for a high street department store for 30 years, first started to suffer from mental health problems when he became the victim of work bullies in 2002.

This led to him suffering from depression, which deepened when his marriage broke down in 2003. He suffered a nervous breakdown and eventually lost his job.

For three years, Mr Kearsley used alcohol and gambling as an escape. He admits he contemplated suicide and says he felt “worthless”.

In 2006, he found the strength to seek help and contacted MhIST.

He was assigned a case worker who counselled and advised him on how to turn his life around. One of the things suggested was running as a release from his problems.

That, and regular sessions with his counsellor over the last three years have helped Mr Kearsley come to terms with his problems.

He said: “Running is very therapeutic, it has helped me so much in my difficult times. A year ago, I would not have felt able to tackle something like the London Marathon, but while I have not completed the recovery process yet, it is something I am now comfortable with.”

MhIST manager Melvyn Bradley said people with mental illness should not suffer in silence.

“We offer support on a whole range of mental illness, from depression to OCDs and bi-polar disorders. The service is available to old and young people,” he said.

For more information about MhIST, or to sponsor Mr Kearsley, call 01204 527 200 or visit