From the mat to a mentor

Championing Mental Health

At Bluestones Medical Complex Care, we understand the importance of having real role models who can inspire and motivate the children and young people in our services. By sharing their own life experiences, the struggles they’ve overcome and lessons they’ve learned along the way, these role models can provide guidance and living proof that it’s possible to overcome mental health challenges.

One such role model is Rob Cunningham, a champion in many regards. An accomplished MMA fighter who has competed internationally, Rob now shares his passion as a care worker supporting children in our services. His unconventional path has taken him from the remote Outer Hebrides of Scotland to the bright lights of Wembley Arena and we caught up with Rob to talk about how he works with young people based on his own life experiences.

Growing up, Rob was a football fanatic who didn’t discover MMA until the relatively late age of 28. “I was always a fan, but never thought I’d actually take it up as a profession,” he shares. Yet when he stepped into the gym, something clicked. Rob found a passion and drive that extended far beyond just physical fitness.

Rob Cunningham

Within a few years, Rob was competing internationally – fighting in arenas across the UK as well as faraway places like South Africa and Poland. However, his journey in MMA taught him lessons that could be translated to all walks of life. “Boxing builds a strong body, but more importantly, a strong mind,” Rob explains. “It teaches principles like discipline, comradery, work ethic, and social skills that are invaluable both in and out of the ring.”  It’s these same principles that Rob now aims to impart to the youth he works with at Bluestones Medical Complex Care, whether directly working with them or helping them find appropriate gyms and instructors. Having worked across sectors like sales, care for autism and learning disabilities, Rob understands the importance of mental fortitude.

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Rob’s own struggles with mental health growing up, including moving across the UK at age 14, made him appreciate the impact simple things like physical activity can have. “There is no medicine like the gym!” he exclaims. “Fitness makes you feel better mentally and physically. It’s for everyone.”

With his unique combination of life experience, passion for boxing and empathetic nature, Rob is proving to be an inspirational force at Bluestones and is championing his own experiences and skill sets with the children to help them deal better with certain situations and introducing them to fitness. Rob is now setting up boxing classes for the children to teach far more than just physical techniques. “We focus on fitness for the body and mind,” he states. “The skills you learn in the ring – discipline, focus, controlling emotions, those are applicable to every aspect of life.”

By having individuals like Rob, who can open up about their personal journeys dealing with mental health issues, we aim to destigmatise these challenges while providing inspiration. His ability to translate the disciplines learned in the ring into teachings applicable to all walks of life makes him a particularly valuable mentor for the youth we care for and help develop.

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