Callum Skinner urges mental health sufferers to speak out
OLYMPIC cycling champion Callum Skinner has urged anyone with mental health issues to speak out.
Skinner, who memorably won gold and silver at the 2016 Games, has overcome his own difficulties with depression.
And he is therefore fully aware how important it is to not suffer in silence.
“The only out and out proven way to improve your mental health is through speaking,” Skinner told the Run Free podcast.
“It was something I found immensely difficult, especially being an athlete where you have to put a brave face on.
“But you have to keep speaking out and speak to the people you trust.”
Skinner sought help himself and credits psychiatrist Steve Peters for getting him back on track in more ways than one.
“Steve was immense and he genuinely saved me,” said Skinner.
“That’s the opinion of my family as well.
“Sports psychology was never really an issue for me but it couldn’t help me with the fact I was deeply unhappy every single day.
“It could help me with on track nerves but there was a void.
“I initially sought help from the Priory but they didn’t really understand sport enough and I was caught in limbo really.
“I remember telling the Priory I was going away to Mexico to train for a month and that I wanted to keep the treatment going.
“But they said they couldn’t do it because of patient confidentiality. There was also a time they asked me to take some time off.
“But I had no job security and if I took time off I would be six months behind everyone else.”
However Peters – who has worked with a number of top sports stars – was able to deal with all aspects of Skinner’s life.
“Steve was great because he understood the sporting side and the lifestyle of an athlete,” said Skinner.
“I’ll forever be grateful to him because he treated me when I was at my absolute lowest and he made a really big impact on me and my family.”
Skinner followed up his heroics at the Olympics by winning a bronze medal in the one kilometre time trial at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
But his medal winning heroics came during a particularly tough time for the Scotsman.
“It was at the Commonwealth Games when I just thought I can’t do this anymore and I ended up having a bit of a breakdown,” said Skinner.
“It was really tough and lots of people around me started to say this couldn’t go on any longer.
“I crossed the line and was in first place with two riders to go so I was guaranteed a medal.
“Up until that point I still had feint hope I would look up at the screen and be happy but I was deeply distressed and had no satisfaction from it at all.
“There was no euphoria and I basically just wanted to run away as quickly as possible.”
But Skinner now reflects on his bronze medal with real pride.
“Looking back at it now I’m in a better place I’m really proud I ticked off that box on my CV and have a Commonwealth medal because I had to show so much determination,” said Skinner.
“I’m really grateful to have come through the other side.”