Britain's most successful female distance runner, Paula Radcliffe, has revealed her views on mental health following her own experience dealing with the psychological pressures faced by athletes at the top level of sport.

Paula has won 14 international gold medals, a host of awards and holds a number of records to her name but these successes did not come without some turbulence along the way. She faced a media storm following the 2004 Olympic Marathon and disappointingly had to withdraw from the London Olympics due to injury, leading her to doubt herself and experience periods of feeling low.

Paula comments "The important issue of mental health is one that is too often overlooked and neglected - particularly in the workplace and at the top level of sport. While physical health might be easier to quantify and evaluate, it counts for nothing if your mind is not fit, healthy and strong."

"During my sporting career, I learned early on how mental doubts can cause fragility and actual weaknesses in training. However, it has been more in times of attack from external sources, such as physical injury at the last moment or untrue allegations in the media, that I have had to recognise and respond to the signs of mental pressures and this has an impact on my physical health."

Today, Paula is calling for increased awareness of the impact of mental ill health on physical health and the importance of seeking professional support when it's needed. She adds "The stigma attached to mental ill health means that people are often reluctant and slow to seek help and support when they experience life's hurdles - or they would rather seek help for a physical health issue than mental ill health. The biggest help for me has been taking the step to actually sit down and rationally talk to professionals to put things into perspective."

Paula's comments come as new research by AXA PPP healthcare reveals that nearly half (47%) of people living with a mental health condition think physical health is talked about more in society than mental health. One in five people living with a mental health condition think that the reason physical health is talked about more is that people underestimate the importance of mental health and one in ten think it's because people don't know how to talk about mental health.

It's also been revealed that 16% of people living with a mental health condition sought professional help after first having had a discussion with a healthcare professional about their physical health.

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare, comments "Our research shows that there is a clear perception by those living with a mental health condition of a disparity between the way society talks about mental and physical ill health. It appears many are afraid to talk about mental health and don't understand the importance of it. There is no such thing as good health without mental health, and so the more conversations we begin to have about mental health, the more we will normalise this very important aspect of our wellbeing and help to reduce the stigma."

Paula Radcliffe

Paula Radcliffe

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