ATHLETICS & MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health issues are an underrated matter, and one that many students suffer from throughout their time at university. I once read that 1 in 4 people will suffer from it at some point in their life time, which means that it can affect anyone around you. To that end, I’ve always thought that getting involved in your hobbies is an excellent way of getting your mind off troubling issues. Personally, I’ve had a longstanding affair with them, namely depression, as I’ve seen it take the life of one of my best friends from School, as well as having a brief battle with it back in 2012. My experiences might not be the same as everyone else’s, but I figure the least I can do is explain how I dealt with these instances so hopefully others can follow suit.

I had a brief bout of depression back in 2012, at a time when my girlfriend was moving back to Australia, my grandmother was hospitalised, my dog had become sick and my mother had started suffering from anxiety attacks. It only lasted about 4 or 5 months, but they were some of my lowest points. I just had the feeling that I was a burden to people around me, and that others were better than I was. I had counselling, which helped, but I only truly got rid of it when I started my Athletics season in the summer. It felt like I was a completely different person as I was genuinely doing something I loved, and getting better at it. It’s never been as bad as it was back then, and I think that’s because I’ve placed added emphasis on finding what makes me happy and seizing it. For that reason I don’t regret having experienced it, as I know I’ve been through it, and my happiness stems from knowing I don’t feel that way anymore.

Throughout my time at university, I’ve had times where I’ve been lower than I was back then, but I’ve never reverted back to how I felt and being involved in the Athletics club has been a massive part of that, as I’ve met people who have helped me through the hard times. One such time was last year, when I found out that I’d lost a great friend of mine from school to depression. And that’s the harsh truth about depression, and all mental health problems, that people need to realise: it’s a sickness. An example I like to use to explain it is that you wouldn’t say someone who has just lost a battle with cancer died due to a stage 4 cancerous tumour on the lung blocking crucial airways or rupturing and causing internal bleeding… you’d say they died from cancer. In the same way, people who commit suicide don’t die from suicide, that’s just the execution. They’re dying from depression as it’s literally taken them to the point where they believe that if they were removed from the world, then it would be better for their friends and family. That’s what it took me a long time to realise, and I’m grateful that I did.

Therefore my word of advice to people is to find something that you love, and even better, that you’re good at. For me, it was Athletics, as sport has such a positive effect on you in terms of physical health. Also, while you’re getting fitter and better at your sport, you’re also releasing endorphins that are designed to make you feel happy. I never regret going out on a run, I may have no natural fitness at the start, but it’s the fact that you’re getting better after each session that got me hooked on it.

I’d also suggest talking to your friends and family, and surrounding yourself with positive people as sometimes the harder things like telling loved ones what you’re going through are what makes it easier to go through it when you have their support. I’ve always thought that if people are going to be talking about what you’re going through, it’s better that it comes from you first. I started putting on mental health workshops last year for Athletics so that people could come forward and speak to friends that were going through similar experiences and know that they weren’t alone. I think it really helped some people as they realised that isolation they felt wasn’t exclusive to them, and they certainly weren’t going through it alone.

That’s how sport helped me through some tough times, and I suspect it will carry on being a driving force for happiness in my life.

Visit our website for more details about sport at NTU, or our previous blog about how to get active.

Sam Corsan (NTU Athletics President)

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