Following is the full transcript of former competitive diver Leon Taylor’s TEDx Talk: How to Manage Your Mental Health @ TEDxClapham conference. This event occurred on June 17, 2018. To learn more about the speaker, read the full bio here.
Listen to the MP3 audio while reading the transcript:
Leon Taylor – Former competitive diver
So my mum and dad still refer to me to this day is a bit of a pain in the backside. And probably, for a good reason, how many parents have we got in here? Give me a quick wave. Loads of you.
Well, I was a hyperactive child. I drove my parents up the wall with my endless amounts of energy. I wouldn’t sleep. I needed constant attention and no matter what my parents seemed to do, I wouldn’t rest. A few of you nodding, sorry about that.
My parents had no idea what to do with me. So they took me to the family doctor to see if there’s anything that he could do.
Now I’m not sure what available labels there were back then, but the family doctor labeled me as a problem child. And he said to my mum and dad, he can’t cope with Leon. I can always take him off you and sedate him, and that he proceeded to share with them some other drug related interventions that they might want to consider.
And for whatever reason, my mum and dad bulked at this. They decided that they would find another way. So they gave me away to other people to look after — mum and dad’s friends and family but that didn’t work, because everyone got very busy and they were left — my mom and dad were left with their problem child at the end of their tether.
You know, there’s a picture of my mum and dad on their wedding day, they looked young, healthy, vital. And there’s a picture of the three of us less than two years later and they looked as if they’ve aged 25 years. So my parents decided to fight fire with fire and they decided to attempt to tire me out. And that’s where my life of activity started way before I can even remember.
I was swimming from day dot. I went to mother and baby gymnastics before I was one-year old. That turned into tumble tots. And I was taking part in any physical activity that was going, and every sport that I was able to do at the age that I was at.
And magical things started to happen. I became easier to manage, and I’m glad my parents went down the physical activity route, because my dreams of going to the Olympic Games started when I was six years old.
I watched the Olympic Games on the TV in 1984, and I told my dad then that I wanted to go to the Olympic Games.
I used to get the Guinness Book of World Records at Christmas, and I would write down in my best handwriting: my time next to the world-record holder to see how many minutes I needed to take off.
And I’m glad my parents went down this route, because when I was 9 or just before I was 9, I started diving. And that was one of the many sports that I tried, but actually within a short space of time it was clear to me that diving was the sport for me.
Ultimately, I followed my Olympic dreams in the sport diving competing at 3 Olympic Games and even winning an Olympic medal in 2004. And none of that would have been possible if my mum and dad hadn’t chosen physical movement as my medicine.
So it’s widely known the negative effects of inactivity on someone’s physical health and the associated risk of disease. But what’s really concerning me is the link between inactivity and someone’s mental health.
Now can I just check with you here today in London just by a show of hands, how many of you know someone close to you who has suffered — always suffering with in some way their mental health? Just give me a quick indicate… Wow! Pretty much every hand went up. This is a huge issue today.
You know, in a recent index of over 300 diseases, mental health problems were the largest cause of the overall disease burden worldwide. Here in the UK, a 2016 official survey showed that nearly 20% of those 16 and over are suffering with symptoms of either depression and/or anxiety.
And there’s a huge percentage of the population who don’t necessarily have a diagnosable mental health problem, but who are suffering with their mental health. It seems that stress and overwhelm are so commonplace in today’s society, and although stress in itself is not a mental health issue, it’s often the starting point for many.