Leisel Jones is one of Australia’s most successful swimmers and the first swimmer to reach four Olympic Games, where she won nine Olympic medals: three gold, five silver and one bronze.
Leisel’s professional swimming career includes 14 individual world records, seven World Championships titles, 10 Commonwealth Games Gold medals and 23 National titles.
At the age of 15, she was the youngest member of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Swimming Team, where she won two silver medals in the 100m breaststroke and 4x100m Medley Relay.
Leisel fulfilled her dream of winning individual Olympic gold in Beijing 2008. She came away with a gold in her pet event the 100m breaststroke, gold in the 4x100m medley relay and silver in the 200m breaststroke.
Leisel was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2015 and received the Order of Australia Medal for contribution to sport in 2004.
“I may be an Olympic gold medallist and people think I have my life all together, but I was certainly not immune to a decline in my mental health during my swimming career.”
While she was in Spain at a high performance sports centre doing altitude training in 2011, Leisel started to really feel down.
“I felt something was amiss, my mind felt cloudy and foggy and I had trouble remembering people’s names. I felt teary and fearful and I didn’t know why. It didn’t feel like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It got to a point where Leisel tried to take her own life. Fortunately, her coach knocked on her door to see where she was and then sat and comforted her.
“I returned to Australia and immediately found help from my trusted Sport Psychologist. We took our time and started to unravel the issues that I had allowed to build up over many years.
“Catching up one day a week over a few months helped me to gain control over my emotions and I started to feel like the old me again.
“All it took was for one day to say that I really wasn’t OK and I found a helping hand who would look into the darkness with me."
Leisel completed her illustrious career at her fourth Olympic Games in London 2012. Her final Olympics was not without its unique challenges including media controversy, overcoming bullying and team dissension. However, she finished her career by winning a silver medal in the 4x100m medley relay.
Since retiring from swimming in 2012, Leisel has become a media commentator and written her memoir.
“To stay physically and mentally well I make sure I make time for myself in my busy schedule. Allowing myself an hour to go to the gym, do yoga or take 10 minutes for meditation makes all the difference to how I feel."
Leisel wants to encourage people who are struggling to reach out and access help.
“To anyone who is struggling at the moment, I encourage you to make a call to your GP. Find a psychologist who you enjoy chatting to. If you don’t like the first one, find another. It is really important that you can almost look forward to your catch up because it will make the journey to health all that more enjoyable.
“If you are worried about someone, check out beyondblue’s website. It is full of really useful information. You don’t need to have all the answers but even asking if someone wants to go for coffee and you are genuinely interested in what they have to say can make all the difference in the world to that person.
“I became a beyondblue Ambassador to share my story with others. I want to show people that depression is not all doom and gloom and that help is right there if you want it. You just have to take the first step and get help.”