Sports

GB hockey player shares experience as part of World Mental Health Day

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Helen Richardson-Walsh has shared her experiences of grief and depression as she struggled with chronic injury, back surgery and the loss of her place in the World Cup team.

World Mental Health Day

To mark World Mental Health Day, which focuses on mental health in workplaces, Richardson-Walsh recalled her battle with depression and the support she received.

The 36-year-old first experienced depression in 2008, with the same feelings resurfacing 6 years later, as she recuperated from a back injury. The hockey player described how it felt tough to motivate herself to get up in the mornings, and stated that life often felt pointless. At this stage, Helen Richardson-Walsh decided to seek help.

Depression

The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Depression and mental health conditions are extremely common. One in ten people suffer from depression at some point in their lives.

Richardson-Walsh found it helpful to write an online blog, titled ‘Back to My Best’, which documents her recovery and allows her to be more open with her feelings. She also sought help using the Mental Health Referral Programme, which is a specialist service set up through the English Institute of Sport. The programme is designed to support elite athletes who could be suffering with mental health problems, and currently works with over 1,700 sportspeople across 33 Paralympic and Olympic sports.


It can be a daunting process, but seeking professional help provides the first step to recovery.

Road to recovery

Two years later, Helen Richardson-Walsh became Olympic champion and helped Great Britain clinch gold medals at Rio in 2016, their first in women’s hockey. To improve your own hockey skills, watch a hockey drill video, such as those found at https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Hockey/index.jsp.

Scoring a decisive penalty in the Olympics, Richardson-Walsh collected an MBE in the New Years Honours List in 2017. Since becoming Olympic champion, she has graduated from the Open University with a psychology degree.

Moving on from professional sport has brought its own challenges for Helen, but she has become more comfortable with the ups and downs of life since. She has strived to include things in her life that she knows help, such as playing golf. Her advice is to open up and seek help, while speaking to people you trust.

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