World champion boxer Frank Bruno is gearing up for his next big fight – taking on the government in his campaign to get a better deal for people battling mental illness.
Bruno, who was speaking at a dinner organised to raise funds for a mental health charity in Hull and East Yorkshire, said he wants to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call for action to stop the suffering being inflicted on mental health patients.
He said: “The system is too quick to give tablets out and they are highly addictive. I’ve seen it with my own eyes – being in these institutions and seeing people suffer.
“I will always fly the flag for people with mental health issues because there are more ways to make people better than giving them tablets. There are charities all over the country that don’t care about their patients.
“A lot of people have died because of the overdoses they have been given but one day the truth will come out. I want to meet Boris Johnson because you have got to get to the root of what’s causing a person to feel that way and try to help them.”
The former WBC heavyweight champion pulled no punches as he spoke about his boxing career and his own mental health issues in aid of Haltemprice Lions Club and their chosen charity, Hull and East Yorkshire Mind.
He told the audience at the Mercure Hull Grange Park Hotel about the highs and lows of a career in the ring which brought epic battles with Mike Tyson twice, Lennox Lewis and others, with his only defeats coming against fellow world champions.
Emma Dallimore, Chief Executive of Hull and East Yorkshire Mind, said: “We want to thank Frank for coming down and talking so openly about his very personal mental health struggles. Being open and talking about mental health helps to reduce the stigma sometimes associated with mental health problems and means we can all support each other to improve our mental health.
“We also want to thank Haltemprice Lions for organising such a fantastic event. All funds raised will ensure that we can continue supporting local people with their mental health.”
Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the pinnacle of Bruno’s career, victory over Oliver McCall to claim the WBC belt, but his retirement in 1996 set him on a downward spiral of domestic problems, divorce and depression.
Bruno said he entered retirement with no idea what he would do next: “You never have a plan. You do bits and bobs but nothing can replace boxing. The excitement went.”
There were flashpoints because his wife and children weren’t used to him spending so much time at home, and once he was on his own he didn’t know what to do with such a large house and a lot of land.
He said: “Getting divorced and not seeing the kids for about a year was the worst part of my life.”
Bruno told how concerns about his mental health led to him being sectioned and treated with medication which he didn’t want.
He said: “I must have been getting 30 tablets a day but lucky I was strong enough to build myself up. I begged them because the tablets weren’t good enough. I needed a structure in my life and that was the gym. You have to give people the confidence to go back into the world.”
John Hall, President of Haltemprice Lions, said: “We are proud to have held such a successful evening and to support HEY Mind with their valuable work in the region. We are grateful to all the businesses which supported us and we hope our combined effort has helped people open up a bit more about mental health.”
The Frank Bruno Foundation is raising money to open a centre which will provide a base for structured, non-contact boxing sessions and wellbeing programmes for anyone over the age of 10 who is experiencing problems with mental health. To find out more please visit www.thefrankbrunofoundation.co.uk
To find out more about Hull and East Yorkshire Mind please visit www.heymind.org.uk
[Phil Ascough – Ascough Associates]