Carl Hester and Sophie Christiansen are among several top riders who have backed Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May).
Carl took to Instagram today (18 May) to talk about the intense pressures often felt by riders, and those competing in sport, and urging riders to encourage one another to speak out and listen to others.
“Whatever the level, whatever the goal, many of those in sport will have felt the pressure at some point in their career. The strongest people are not those who show their strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles behind the scenes, that most know nothing about,” wrote the Olympic gold medallist.
“We should always encourage our peers to never let their pride or fear stop them from speaking out when their challenges become overwhelming, so that they know they are never alone.”
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Multi-medalled paralympian Sophie Christiansen has revealed her personal struggles with mental health following her gold medal at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, aged 20, in support of the campaign.
“After I came back from winning my first Paralympic gold medal in Beijing 2008, I suffered depression, termed by psychologists as the ‘post-Games blues’. I went back into my third year at university and after a few weeks I just didn’t feel myself. I shut myself in my room in halls for days and had really irrational thoughts, some even suicidal, even though I knew I had no reason to,” revealed Sophie.
Sophie continued: “I had a meeting with my adviser at the time, which forced me to go out. She took one look at me and asked me what was wrong. I told her how I was feeling and she immediately said, ‘The trouble is that you’ve achieved your childhood dream – you’ve been away in this fairy-tale land that no-one back here understands. And you’re working too hard. It’s possible to lengthen your four year MSci into five years. Have a think about it.’”
Sophie explained how finding somebody who understood how she was feeling helped her to start feeing better, but “it made me realise what real depression felt like”.
The Mental Health Foundation, which hosts the week, is focusing on stress this year, and how tackling stress can help alleviate anxiety and depression.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.
This week’s edition (17 May) features a full report from Royal Windsor Horse Show, including all the showing, showjumping and dressage action. We go behind the scenes with the Household Cavalry as they prepare for the royal wedding, plus check out our interview with Irish eventer Padraig McCarthy.