Hey everyone and welcome back to this incredible community and welcome also to my first post! I thought it would only be fair to start this journey by giving you background into who I am, and why I have any business talking about any of this… so here is a little introduction to the crazy life of a 22-year-old, graduate student in her final year of eligibility as a D1 swimmer at Villanova University.
I want to begin with my family, 3500 miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in the UK. They are my biggest supporters and my biggest motivation. I couldn’t have achieved anything I have done without their continual, unconditional love and support and I am eternally grateful for them each and every day. My passion for mental resilience started with my Dad. He has always had a interest in the brain and body connection, and recently completed his masters in neuroscience while conducting research into these topics in the real world. From this, I developed my interest in psychology and my undergraduate major. Freshmen year, coping with a new university, a new country and the new experience of being a student athlete, only fueled my fascination as I learnt more and more about the direct effect of mental health on my own life.
Sophomore year was one of the hardest year of my life. I experienced first-hand how the catastrophic effects of poor mental health can affect someone close to me. I lost a close friend and teammate – Calum Lehman – who tragically took his own life, and it tore me apart. Following that, I battled through my own challenges, doubts and fears and helped those around me face theirs too. Through this I found my true passion and what I believe to be my purpose in life.
Since then I have chosen my study around becoming a therapist, choosing clinical mental health counseling for my masters. I am working to become a counselor who specializes in sports and performance. I’ve created groups for student-athletes to help better support their mental health, and open wider conversations about this topic. I am a ambassador for mental health awareness and work hard to provide more effective resources for students campus-wide. My goal is to educate student-athletes, coaches, performance staff, parents, supporters and fans that mental health is as important as physical health. We ask so much of athletes mentally and physically every day, but right now the truth is, we don’t have enough resources to support them.
Athletically, I have always been competing my whole life. Whatever opportunity I had, I tried out for every team at school, and played every sport I could fit into my schedule. As I got older, I had to focus down and I ended up choosing Netball (see here for more information) and Swimming as my top sports. By the end of high school, the big decision needed to be made and you guessed it, swimming won. I ventured off to the other side of the pond to take this astonishing journey of independence, passion and self-discovery while having the incredible experience of finding a second family, while performing at one of the highest levels in the sport and being fully immersed into a culture that is like no other.
The reason behind this post was to show why I feel I have quite an understanding of the immense amount of stress, pressure and anxiety the student-athlete lifestyle commands. I also have experience of dealing with a variety of mental health challenges that have either affected me personally, or someone close to me that I have helped to get through, which means I have real experience of just how significant the influence can be on someone’s performance and life. I am so excited to find out more about all of you and your own experiences and to continue my education and engagement in this field along the way. I believe this is so impactful on everyone’s life and I am thankful you have chosen to take the time to invest in yourself and your own mental health. It really is the most important investment you can ever make. Thank you and see you again soon!