A PROUD volunteer supporting others through mental health problems believes exercise saved her life and helped her overcome severe depression.

Claire Coulthard, 33, who is running to raise money for mental health charity Mind, endured years of mental health issues after growing up with an alcoholic father, a mother with her own mental health problems and becoming a caregiver for her younger brother.

She said: “I never felt I had a voice or able to speak out about how I was feeling so I learnt to mask my feelings and ‘pretend’ I was happy or simply hide away.

“Personally, exercise saved my life. I realised it was the one way that I could silence all the noise in my head. I could just put my music in and run.

"It helps me if I am upset, if I am angry, if I feel miserable and unmotivated. Even if it’s just a mile, I know that afterwards I will feel even just a bit better. I have achieved something.”

Ms Coulthard, from Chester-le-Street, is completing the Simplyhealth Great North Run on Sunday to show others "it's okay not to be okay".