A Winsford-based officer is gearing up for a daunting charity challenge to help other people with mental health problems.
Police Constable Neil Jones, of Cheshire Constabulary’s Initial Investigation Team, is determined to cycle 140 miles in aid of a mental health charity on Saturday 22 May despite being hampered by the effects of a spinal injury he sustained in the line of duty.
Previously a part of the force’s Roads and Crime Unit, the 41-year-old has been unable to work on the frontline since he sustained the injury when his police car was rammed by a stolen van in January 2019.
PC Jones, a dad-of-two, said: “I have had mental health problems, which cause invisible barriers that you have to overcome, for a long period of my life.
“I have been able to control the issues with treatments and medications after they were identified four years ago, but my mental health demons resurfaced after I was injured at work and forced to have an extended period of sickness leave.
“I was left needing to fight both a physical and a mental battle, trying to come to terms with the fact that I am unlikely to return to my full duties ever again.
“The injuries and subsequent condition, radiculopathy, has left me with reduced control and function of my left limbs, preventing me from continuing with my original sporting love, running, as impactive sports are no longer possible.
“Cycling was recommended as a method of rehabilitation and reasonable exercise, and I find that it gives me the freedom of space and time.
“It enables me to blow the physical and mental cobwebs away, allowing fresh thoughts, clarity and reason.
“During one of my rides I came up with the idea of The Thin Blue Loop, cycling between various police stations in Cheshire to raise money for, and awareness of, Mind, the mental health and well-being charity.
“Completing the 140-mile course starting and ending at Cheshire Constabulary’s headquarters in Winsford will take a mammoth physical effort that is beyond my normal capabilities.
“However, I am determined to train hard for the challenge, complete it and raise as much money and awareness as I can to help others with mental health issues.”
Mind, the mental health charity has been offering information and advice to people with mental health problems and lobbying the Government and local authorities on their behalf for more than 70 years.
PC Jones added: “I have set myself the target of raising £3,687 for the charity, a figure which is personal to me and my career at Cheshire Constabulary.
“Fellow PC Lee Spencer, a good friend who I used to work alongside in the Roads and Crime Unit, has offered to do the challenge alongside me and help me train for it.
“He has been cycling for a long time and will find the challenge a lot easier and less painful than I will.
“I am very grateful to him for the help he is giving me, and I am also very grateful to those who have made a donation towards the charity challenge via the JustGiving page I have set up for it.”
PC Spencer, 50, added: “We will start the challenge early in the morning and I expect it to take around 12 hours to complete.
“We miss PC Jones in the Roads and Crime Unit and I am more than happy to help him with the cycling challenge that is in aid of such a good cause.”
To make a donation and help PC Jones achieve his target of raising £3,687 for Mind, the mental health charity visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thethinblueloop.
You can follow the build-up to the challenge and the training efforts of PC Jones and PC Spencer on Facebook and Twitter via https://www.facebook.com/thethinblueloop and https://twitter.com/thin_loop.