Former English cricketer, Mike Yardy, shares his experience of living with OCD, and the importance of encouraging young people to be open about their mental health.
Why have you become a YoungMinds Ambassador?
I think people are becoming more aware of mental health and how important it is that people feel free to talk about how they are feeling.
It’s important that everyone encourages young people to be open about their mental health. Being a parent and working with young people within sport, I think the pressures on young people are rising and they need to be supported accordingly. Having a great charity like YoungMinds that focuses on young people and supports parents in understanding mental health issues can only be positive.
You have talked and written a lot about OCD and depression. What made you decide to speak out?
Over time, I’ve become more comfortable speaking about my mental health and how it affected myself and my family. The more open I have become the more comfortable people seem to be talking to me about their own experiences. Encouragingly for me, they tell me how much they appreciate me speaking up and how it helped them to ask for help.
OCD is widely misunderstood. Have you found that difficult?
The most difficult thing for me was speaking about suffering from OCD because people misunderstand the illness. When suffering from OCD, I had very powerful intrusive thoughts but I didn’t become obsessed with cleaning or tidiness (I am very unorganised and messy). However, I did use other behaviours to try and control these thoughts.
What advice would you give a young person who wants to be more open about their OCD?
Speak to someone you know and trust and be honest. It is the bravest but best thing you can do. You may feel silly or uncomfortable but I think telling someone can’t be as bad as the intrusive thoughts you are having. There is always a solution. The relief I felt once I was referred to a psychotherapist and she told me what I was suffering from was incredible. Did the thoughts stop straight away? No, but it was the first step to accepting that these were just thoughts.
They may not be qualified in how to help but sometimes talking to family or friends is just what you need. It is tough when you are suffering from poor mental health but I found it’s even tougher to put on a brave face or pretend that I am fine when I am being eaten up inside. Be brave and talk.
How can we help teammates or friends who are struggling with their mental health?
I remember coming back to training after I had a break, because I was struggling, and one of my former team mates just gave me a hug! He didn’t need to say anything but I knew he was there for me.
What strategies do you use to recognise your difficulties and help yourself?
It’s important to understand how to take care of yourself when you are struggling. I find I have to be active. If I just sit I keeping going over and over the same unhelpful thoughts. Going for a walk or planning something to do really helps me. If I’m honest, I want to do nothing; but just taking what may seem like a small step, but in that moment for me is a huge step, makes me feel a little better.
Any advice for a young person who wants to be a professional sports person?
Small steps can make a massive difference. That doesn’t mean that a small amount of work will get you there. You have to work hard and smart to make sure you are working on the right things. If you work hard then you are more likely to have belief, which is the most important thing. It’s not always the best players who get to the top it’s the ones who believe the most.
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