Photo Credit: Sky

 

By XAN VARMUZA, Founder of Sportside 

The whole Sportside team were inspired by the sight of GB athlete Maria Lyle clinching her T35 100m world gold at the Para-Athletics in Dubai. For Maria, who has cerebral palsy, it was her third World Championship and her first single triumph. 

However, what really moved us was not just that God-given talent or the determination to try, try, try again. 

It was the fact that just days before the biggest race of her life, Maria, 19, showed incredible courage by speaking openly about her own mental health issues, urging other young people to open up. 

Too often in sport, as in life, we see role models post perfect images of perfect lives on social media. 

In a frank interview with the BBC, Maria revealed the pain behind the headlines. She said: “I started feeling a bit rubbish about myself when I became a teenager and that just became a bigger and bigger issue as I’ve got older. 

“If I’d maybe sought help earlier, I perhaps wouldn’t have got myself into the mess I got myself into.” 

At her lowest, Maria broke down in tears in her mother’s car and finally admitted to herself and her family that she needed help. 

She said: “My advice would be just speak to anybody you trust and feel comfortable with. Seeking help isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s done wonders for me.” 

Speaking about mental health is the first step on the road to recovery. And Maria’s brave decision sends out a powerful message to millions of young people: You are not alone. And it’ OK to talk