Dan Cross and Efrem Brynin of Channel 4’s SAS Who Dares Wins talk about recovery from mental health issues.
Dan Cross and Efrem Brynin are the founders of the bereavement support charity StrongMen, where they use the synergy between good physical and mental health to aid recovery. Both men have endured significant loss and remain passionate about using their experiences to help others by focusing on fitness, nutrition, resilience and the bond created by people suffering the same loss, ultimately that brotherhood is the foundation of StrongMen.
In 2015, Dan lost his wife to murder and subsequently suffered immeasurably with mental health issues.
Alongside suffering from grief, he was also diagnosed with anxiety, depression & PTSD. In order to recover from these conditions, he used physical exercise to help disperse build-up of adrenaline and stress levels.
Going to the gym was useful, but it was when he trained in the outdoors that he noticed the biggest impact on his mood and outlook. In addition to this he noticed something more. Whilst exercising inside in a gym, Dan would open up a little to his training partner about how he was feeling, but when he trained outside in the wild, they couldn’t shut him up! Dan was able to focus on the outdoors and the exercise in hand and in doing so, found himself talking about what was going on in his head. Not only that, the focus on the physical training helped push out intrusive, negative memories and thoughts he was having due to the PTSD symptoms he was suffering from even if it was just for that hour or two that he was working out.
But, that break from the constant mental hammering I was taking was invaluable. It’s this experience Dan hopes to share via the “StrongMen” project and in turn help others going through the grieving process. Dan’s opinion is that doing positive things to help others is a massive part of recovering and healing. In 2018 he appeared as recruit 13 on Channel 4’s “SAS who dares wins”, where he met “Ollie Ollerton” who has been a friend and mentor since meeting him. The SAS who dares wins experience was truly amazing and educated Dan on how quickly you can form a close bond with people you don’t know in just a few hours when you have a common connection against adversity. This was another deciding factor in the birth of “StrongMen”.
Professionally, Dan has had a long career in IT telecoms operations and serves as a Trustee for the child bereavement charity “Nikki’s Wishes” which he founded in memory of Nikki. In 2018, Dan was delighted to receive a Heart FM hero award for fundraising. Personally, he has an amazing family and group of friends who he could never even begin to repay for the love, care and support they showed me and my children through the very worst of times.
I sincerely hope that the creation of “StrongMen” is the start of something new, innovative and effective in helping men to talk about their mental struggles while learning the benefits of looking after yourself physically and the importance of connecting with people of similar experience to aid the recovery from a bereavement and the related stresses and conditions this can cause.
Born and raised in Sussex, Efrem has a keen interest in most sports, particularly Football, Cricket and Motor Sport.
He love’s being outdoors and active whether with his dogs, family, friends or just myself. Since he was 16 he has played the guitar in local bands and has a deep love of music, rock music in particular.
Efrem’s story starts in Singapore during the spring of 2013, sitting his wife in complete peace, his life was in complete balance. Just six months later everything had changed, that life he had loved was over. Efrem’s son, James, was killed on his second tour of Afghanistan. In the immediate aftermath and to this day Efrem has, and still experiences, the very worst imaginable emotions. Since James died, he has been diagnosed, treated for and is currently in remission for Prostate Cancer, so it’s been a really tough few years.
During 2016 Efrem was lucky enough to play the part of Recruit #11 in Channel 4’s SAS Who Dares Wins, filmed on location in the jungles of Ecuador. Not only was this a truly unique and incredible experience, it almost certainly saved his life, as he first experienced the symptoms that led to his eventual cancer diagnosis 12 months later. It is also as a result of this programme that Efrem got to know Matthew ‘Ollie’ Ollerton and subsequently Dan Cross, which eventually led them here to StrongMen.
The never ending process of bereavement of somebody close to you is unique to all who have experienced it. Each of us have different relationships and dynamics, however, much of that experience is shared. To be able to provide the opportunity for people with similar experiences to reconnect with the outdoors, and share the comfort of those that have, and continue to “walk the walk” is something that not only excites Efrem, but also helps him to continue my healing process.