The British 400m hurdler shares his experiences with depression and suggests coping mechanisms for other elite athletes living with mental illness.
By the age of 20, Jack Green had already won 400m hurdles gold at the 2011 European U23 Championships and come close to winning a medal at the Olympic Games London 2012 – finishing fourth as part of Britain’s 4x400m relay team.
Just one year later, however, he was diagnosed with depression and stepped away from the sport to manage his mental health. He has since returned to the track – winning bronze medals at both the 2016 European Championships and 2017 World Championships – and is now motivated to share his battle with depression so that others can learn from his experiences.
“Millions of people live with mental health problems each and every day, but so few people speak about it,” he explains. “I hope I can help remove the stigma surrounding mental health and make it easier for others to speak about it too.”
GET IT OFF YOUR CHEST
“Don’t hold in your thoughts – find someone you trust and let your thoughts out. I work with a psychologist on a weekly basis who has to put up with my ranting but I feel much better afterwards. Thoughts can be self-destructive and your worries can take over; don’t keep it in!”
HONE YOUR SENSES
“Your senses can change your thoughts. Be it sounds, smells, tastes or touch. If there is a song that relaxes you or makes you happy, then listen to it. If a certain smell relaxes you, then buy a candle and light it (I use lavender; it takes me back to my childhood). I’m sure you can think of a few examples that can work for you.”
RELAXATION AND BREATHING
“It is important to schedule time to relax – sit down, enjoy some free time in front of your TV or a good book.
“Consider meditation; it is something that is highly recommended as it empties your mind and allows greater control over your thoughts.
“Anxiety is a huge part of mental health issues. One simple yet incredibly effective way to manage this is through your breathing. Breathe through your nose and then out through your mouth. Repeat until you feel in control of yourself. Trust me, it works!”
“The world is not fair and bad things happen. Remember that, and you will be happier. When things don’t go your way, that’s fine because you know that things aren’t fair and that stuff like that happens. If something is not in your control then anything can and probably will happen. Accept that and move on.
Why worry? We spend a lot of our time worrying about things that never happen. It’s a waste of your time and energy. Live your life!”
“I am a long way from home [when I’m training and competing] and miss my friends and family. It was a big decision for me to move away from my support network but I am able to because I am confident in my management of my mental health. One way I combat being away is through my positive memories. I have kept every single card and gift I have received from my loved ones and keep them visible around the house. It reminds me that I have fantastic people who care about me and helps me remember the happiness I have felt in my life.”
“By helping others, you are helping yourself and you are improving the world around you – your world. When you help someone else you get this fantastic sense of fulfilment. So volunteer, write blogs or offer your skills to someone. Do what you can to help others and you will feel the benefits.
“Take what you feel is useful from these ‘tips’ and use them. Some will work, some won’t. Remember we are all individuals and respond to different things but I do hope one or two will be beneficial to you and improve your wellbeing.
I still have bad days but they are now rare, I hope you can learn to manage your mental health too.”