Between now and World Mental Health Day on 10 October, Support in Mind Scotland is calling on people to either walk, run or cycle 100 streets in their community – an ideal way to stay physically active and improve their wellbeing.
Since its inception in 2016, the 100 Streets Challenge has literally made giant strides, with people telling us that they love the freedom and flexibility that it offers. You get to plan your own route, choose the days that you participate, decide whether you want to do it alone or as part of a group, and it is absolutely FREE to register.
Our Charity Ambassadors Scott and Jenny Hastings have been tremendous supporters of the challenge each year, and we are delighted this year to have another public figure championing our cause alongside them – inspirational Scotland and Team GB para athletics star Maria Lyle.
Sprinter Maria, 19, already has a string of medals, awards, PBs and records to her name in the T35 category. She won two bronze medals and one silver at the Paralymics in Rio in 2016, silver at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast last year, and now has the World Championships and 2020 Paralympics firmly in her sights.
But the pressures of the track can test her mentally as well as physically. Defying her tender years, sprinter Maria has shown great courage and maturity to talk openly about her own experiences of living with anxiety and poor mental health.
She has now embraced the opportunity to become an Ambassador for Support in Mind Scotland with great enthusiasm and is looking forward to using the role to try and reach other young people who are struggling with their mental health.
A sign of her commitment to the cause came when she helped launch this year’s 100 Streets Challenge – hours after stepping off a plane from Dubai, where she had just won two gold medals at a World Grand Prix meeting.
Maria, from Dunbar, said: “I have found it helpful opening up about my mental health as it has made me aware I’m not the only one who is going through a hard time.
“I feel very honoured to have become an Ambassador. I hope by sharing my experience will help others. It is important to raise mental health awareness as it will remove the stigma. People will also feel more confident sharing how they feel.”
Maria was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two, and has had great support from her family, particularly as her sporting talent became evident and she embarked on the intense levels of training and competition required to become an elite athlete.
“Sport has been very important with how I view myself as a person. I struggled to see my worth because of my disability. However, sport gives me a sense of purpose, routine and makes me feel good,” she said.
In a powerful interview she gave recently, Maria explained: “I had dreams of winning titles and breaking world records. But for some reason, over the next few years, I found the enjoyment rapidly vanished.
“I was worried about my competitors and factors I couldn’t control. After years of a vicious cycle, before the 2018 European Championships I revealed something to my mum (Susan) that I have never spoken about before.
“I broke down and cried for hours expressing how rubbish I felt about myself in both my running and personal life. Running had completely taken over and there was nothing positive.
“In my darkest moment my mum was there for me. She was the one who listened for hours. She was the one who hugged me. She was the one who made me realise I needed professional help, and a few days later I was diagnosed with having anxiety. “From that day, my mum and my immediate family have supported me. They have made me realise that there is more to life.”
Support in Mind Scotland is delighted to have such a bright, positive, young person helping to promote our work. Maria is an ideal fit for the 100 Streets Challenge, which is designed to be inclusive, accessible and fun.
“The 100 Streets Challenge helps bring the public’s attention to the incredible work Support in Mind does,” says Maria. “The challenge will also bring people together who have been touched by mental health in some way.”
n Sign up to the 100 Streets Challenge today and walk, run or cycle 100 streets before 10 October. Call Support in Mind Scotland on 0131 662 4359 or visit: 100streetschallenge.com
Colin Leslie, Fundraising & Communications Manager, Support in Mind Scotland