DOUBLE ACT: Postman Mark Robson and his swimming instructor Donna Shann
DOUBLE ACT: Postman Mark Robson and his swimming instructor Donna Shann

A DALE postman who could scarcely swim three years ago took the plunge for a mental health charity.

Mark Robson, who has previously run marathons for good causes, this year tackled the Great North Swim after getting swimming lessons from a friend. In doing so, he has raised more than £1,000 for ManHealth, a peer support group for men with mental health issues.

Mr Robson said: “It is close to my heart because we lost a family friend to mental health. There is not much out there for men. [Their message is] don’t be afraid to open up – it’s okay to not be okay.”

The postman completed his first Great North Run eight years ago after his father, Colin, was diagnosed with cancer and has since also completed the London Marathon and the York Marathon for charities including Mind and The Samaritans.

He took up swimming about three years ago.

Mr Robson said: “I was not the best swimmer in the world. A few years ago I wanted to do a triathlon so I had a handful of lessons.”

Close friend Donna Shann, who runs the swimming school Time 2 Swim, helped by providing lessons. It was while supporting her at last year’s Great North Swim that he decided to give it a go as well. He said: “When I saw the swimmers coming out of the water I said to Donna, ‘I am going to do that next year’.”

He and Mrs Shann’s husband, Grant, started practising twice a week at Teesdale Leisure Centre in preparation.

Mr Robson along with Donna and Grant Shann and their daughters, Leah and Kailey, successfully took part in the event along Lake Windmere on Sunday, June 9.

Mrs Shann said: “It is a massive achievement to go from not being able to swim to an open water event. It was absolutely brilliant. I was chuffed to bits [for him] but I was gutted I didn’t see him come out of the water because I was with the girls.”

Mr Robson thanked those on his postal round who supported him with donations as well as colleagues at work. He also made special mention of the “Cone Girls” and Firkin Alley micro pub which had raised significant amounts for the cause. People concerned about their mental health can visit ManHealth Barnard Castle on Facebook or contact the Samaritans on 116 123.