Bailey’s Marathon For Mental Health: Living With Bipolar Disorder

by Sportitude

"You can always push far beyond what you ever thought you were capable of, and be happy in the process, whether you run or not; that is just the path that I took.” - Bailey Minchington

Please note: This article contains sensitive topics including depression and suicide. The content may be distressing or triggering for individuals who have experienced or are currently affected by mental illness.

On the 25th of August 2024, 25 year old Bailey Minchington will be lacing up to fulfil his dream of running a marathon in under 3 hours at the Adelaide Marathon Festival. However, the steps he takes daily towards the management and recovery of his mental health are equally inspiring.

Bailey Minchington is among the 1 in 50 Australians living with bipolar disorder – a chronic and incurable but manageable mental health condition that can dramatically impact daily life.  

Unfortunately, alongside the challenges of the mental health condition itself, people affected by bipolar disorder are often impacted by misguided stigma, leading to feelings of isolation and shame.

Bailey courageously shares with you his experience on what it feels like to live with bipolar disorder, to help raise awareness and cultivate understanding in the community.

Bailey is a passionate advocate for mental health research, with all funds raised from running the Adelaide Marathon going towards the Black Dog Institute and Bipolar Australia. Together, we can help lift the burden of stigma regarding mental illness, and raise life-saving funds to support the recovery of people impacted by bipolar disorder.   

Through Bailey’s GoFundMe page, you can help Bailey reach his goal of raising $5000 minimum for bipolar disorder research in the pursuit of more effective treatments.

Donate now to help raise life-saving funds for mental health

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental health condition that results in intense fluctuations or cycles in mood – from energised, elated or euphoric highs (also called mania or the less severe hypomania) to major depression or lows.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t refer to the normal mood changes that can occur in daily life. It is a complex neurological disorder that can result from a combination of genetic factors, environment/life experiences and an imbalance in brain chemistry.

Manic episodes are often misunderstood. During manic episodes, people may experience increased irritability or erratic excitement accompanied by poor sleep patterns and racing thoughts. They may have feelings of limitless energy or invincibility, which can lead to life-risking or financially debilitating impulses.

This loss of control is understandably frightening, and manic episodes may be so severe that they result in hallucinations or delusions and require hospitalisation.

“There were periods where I was only just beginning to learn how to manage the condition and would allow the elevated states during episodes of mania to completely take over, such as when I went weeks without ever feeling like I needed to sleep, became consumed by grandiosity, had uncontrollable amounts of energy, spent large amounts of money on materialistic items and gifts without second thought and made all of these big plans for the rest of my life,” Bailey shared.

The depressive episodes can be equally debilitating, with symptoms including feelings of deep sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, a lack of motivation/concentration and a loss of interest in activities that once brought joy.

Bipolar disorder can have a profound influence on behaviour, emotions, thoughts and energy levels, and is often accompanied by other mental illnesses such as anxiety. People affected by bipolar disorder may also have a higher risk of self-injury or suicide compared to the broader community.

“Bipolar depression is a type that often persists for months on end and to the severe extent that records troubling statistics where up to 60% of people with bipolar disorders attempt suicide at some point in their life, which happened in my life twice during mid-2021”, said Bailey. 

"I can’t put into words how thankful I am about having not just become another statistic building on the mortality rate from suicide attempt."

"Carrying these memories will always be a challenge in being able to mentally refrain from ever going back to that mindset, but I am working hard every day on doing all of the right things that I can to keep myself as healthy as I can be."

This mental illness manifests itself in different ways – whether experiencing mainly highs, lows or a combination of the two simultaneously which "rattles the brain much more than you might think". The presentation of bipolar disorder is uniquely dependent on the individual, which can lead to delays in diagnosis that can result in feelings of isolation.

The onset of bipolar disorder generally occurs during adolescence or early adulthood. There are multiple types, including bipolar 1 (most severe), bipolar 2 and cyclothymia, which are diagnosed based on the severity and duration of episodes.

However, a person with bipolar disorder can maintain healthy relationships, successful careers, contribute to their community in meaningful ways and live fulfilling lives. With effective treatment teamed with openness, understanding and compassion from self, loved ones and the community – there is hope for recovery.

“No matter how great a challenge is in life and how impossible recovery seems, even from the point where you are so unwell that you make the decision that life is not worth living any more, that full recovery is possible." - Bailey Minchington

Bailey’s Inspiring Story: From Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis To Marathon Training

In 2021, still undiagnosed, Bailey endured the hardest struggle of his life. Bailey shared on his GoFundMe page;

“2021 included an eight-month-long major depressive episode, multiple admissions to hospital, two serious attempts at taking my own life, two and a half weeks in a coma, three broken ribs, a broken ankle, a broken neck, a broken pelvis and a stage 3 brain injury - one very traumatic journey!”

Affected by bipolar 1 disorder, Bailey’s condition can be particularly severe and during his darkest days – which can last for months at a time – can be mentally and physically debilitating. After receiving his diagnosis at the start of 2022 and setting out on the road to recovery, Bailey became committed to helping others living with this mental health condition.

“In 2023/2024 I have found a passion for research that has led to my interest and desire for more research to be undertaken in the field of mental health, particularly in finding a more suitable and effective treatment method for bipolar disorder.”

Bipolar disorder requires both acute and long-term management. The goal is to stabilise the person’s mental state in the short-term during manic or depressive episodes, as well as to prevent relapse, improving functionality and quality of life looking forward.

Alongside medications and psychological therapies (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy), an effective wellbeing plan can assist in the management of bipolar disorder. For Bailey, running is a critical part of his self-care - providing a sense of structure, control and positivity in his life.

“Running helps to provide structure to my life, keeps me well-grounded and allows me to always feel like I am achieving something… Being able to keep a consistent running routine really helps to balance out the wild fluctuations in mood, energy and perception that come with bipolar disorders.”

"Some of the best ways to counterbalance those fluctuations is to most importantly maintain a healthy and consistent sleep routine, as well as eat well, stay away from alcohol (2 years and counting) and look after my body as best as I can. I feel like a running routine really, really helps me to hit all of those markers. 

Medication will play a crucial role in managing the condition for the rest of my life, but just as importantly, maintaining these habits are essential for my long-term health and happiness."

Combining his passion for running with his commitment to raise awareness for bipolar disorder was a natural fit – giving a new life to Bailey’s goal of fundraising as part of his marathon journey.

However, Bailey’s journey hasn’t been linear, with a “whirlwind of unexpected life circumstances” having caused him to fall off track of his aspirations in 2022. Now in 2024, Bailey is returning to his “dream” with a fresh hope and renewed commitment;

“On August 25 2024 I will participate in the Adelaide Marathon festival with a goal of running the full marathon in under 3 hours.”

Of course, marathon training isn’t without its challenges, having endured multiple running-related injuries, but Bailey's fundraising efforts helped to reignite his motivation.   

“I have a deep passion for spreading awareness for bipolar disorders, breaking any kind of stigma and helping as many others as possible who live with the condition to get the help they need and live the best lives they can.”

Bailey won’t be on this journey alone. The encouragement of his running club RunAsOne, co-foundered by professional runners Riley Cocks and Isobel Batt-Doyle, has been instrumental to guiding his marathon training and supporting his mental health.

“Heading out with the RunAsOne group every Tuesday and Friday has completely changed the game with my training. The whole community, the group I train with and all of the sessions that Riley and the team put together so that everyone out there can get the most out of their training is something that I am so grateful to be a part of.”

“Sessions with the RunAsOne group keep me very honest and really help me to get out of bed and put in the hard work. All of those extra little bits and pieces have helped me take my running to the next level and get myself far beyond the condition I had ever thought I was capable of getting to.”

In fact, Bailey is the Head Barista of The RunHôuse – a café opened by the founders of RunAsOne – combining coffee, community and a love of running.

"In the past I have always been very, very challenged being in big groups of people, particularly in a social setting. It is a very common comorbidity with anxiety disorders and bipolar disorders, but the community at RunAsOne have always made me feel so comfortable and welcomed, and I love to be around them regardless of the state of mind I am in."

Making Positive Change: The Black Dog Institute & Bipolar Australia

The treatment for bipolar disorder isn’t clear cut – it can be complicated and must be personalised to the individual with the guidance of a mental health professional. However, there is hope - with improved education, understanding and self-compassion, today many people affected by bipolar disorder live full and fulfilling lives.

Bailey has chosen Bipolar Australia and the Black Dog Institute as his key charities to support when running the Adelaide Marathon.

Bipolar Australia

Bipolar Australia is transforming the lives of people affected by bipolar disorder for the better. According to their website, this not-for-profit organisation has a mission “to empower everyone affected by bipolar disorders to live well and fulfil their potential.”

They are passionate about lifting the stigma off people affected by bipolar disorder through increased awareness. They are making knowledge more accessible through education programs and resources for those affected with this mental health condition and their families, healthcare professionals and the wider community. Bipolar Australia also believes in the power of bipolar disorder support groups to cultivate positive change and increased awareness.

Bailey shared, “As soon as I had made the plan to share my story and do something to spread awareness around bipolar disorders and mental illness, I went straight to Bipolar Australia. The team there do some incredible work in supporting all those affected by bipolar disorders, including people with the condition, their families and carers, mental health services and professionals alike.

The funds received would be directed toward spreading awareness for the condition, as well as allowing them to host their annual World Bipolar Day event in as many locations around Australia as possible.”

“I have proudly and happily survived my recent ordeals and am working hard on my recovery, which comes with a passion for raising money and awareness for the Bipolar Australia Foundation in an effort to provide more of those living with this condition the help they, and their families, need to live a healthy and happy life”.

Black Dog Institute

According to their website, the mission of The Black Dog Institute is to “create a mentally healthy world for everyone” by combining a research-based approach, education and compassion. They work closely with people that have lived experience with mental illness, develop and provide access to resources including digital tools and apps, and have a commitment to the continuous improvement of life-saving clinical services.

From research to effective management, to spearheading positive change in how mental illness is addressed and perceived, The Black Dog Institute is supporting individuals, families and communities.   

Bailey shared, “I hold a strong belief that The Black Dog Institute will be a part of finding more accessible and effective treatment methods for various mental illnesses through the research projects they conduct.

For those who are in current need of support, there are a great number of incredible mental health organisations who help to change and save lives, although research can be equally as important to provide a better future for anyone who suffers the burden of mental illness, and to look at preventing the onset of mental illness for as many people as possible.”

What Can I Do To Help?

Be Open About Mental Health

“If you are challenged by your mental health, then speak up, tell your story and realise it does not define you. Once you say something about it and be confident in who you are, everything gets so much easier and you play a part in breaking down the stigma around mental illnesses.” – Bailey Minchington

Your voice makes a difference. Talking about mental illness such as bipolar disorder out in the open in a non-judgemental way helps eliminate the stigma. It encourages the letting go of misguided or negative labels and stereotypes, which can have a role in discrimination.

Making a conscious effort to cultivate an environment of understanding and compassion – for yourself, loved ones and the wider community can help break down barriers that affect people with mental health challenges and their families.

If you are wondering how to help when you're worried about someone's mental health, click the link to access a free resource by the Black Dog Institute.   

Your Donation Will Make A Difference

Your donation will help change and save lives. By supporting Bailey’s goal to raise $5000 for The Black Dog Institute and Bipolar Australia, you’re making a genuine, positive difference. These funds go towards raising awareness and applying research into action that will help people affected by mental illness and their families, paving the way for recovery.

As Bailey expressed in his GoFundMe page;

“It would mean the world to me, and many others, if you would please donate, even as much as $1 to help support this cause, as every dollar counts and will contribute towards saving a life such as my own. It would also be a huge support if you would either run part of the marathon with me or be there at the finish line to encourage me to reach the marathon distance.”

Donate now to support Bailey and raise life-saving funds for mental health

You can also check out Sportitude’s full interview with Bailey at Bailey's Marathon For Mental Health: Full Interview.

Thank you Bailey for sharing your inspiring story. The Sportitude team wishes you the very best in your marathon training and fundraising goals.

Happy running!

Important Resources  

Black Dog Institute

Bipolar Australia

Beyond Blue


Health Direct

If you are concerned about your mental health, are struggling or feel in crisis, please seek out the guidance of a healthcare professional (Health Direct can help you find one near you). Please talk to your trusted friends or family for support.