Today, 15 May, Skeleton Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold completed a terrifying 10,000ft skydive for Mind. After securing Gold at Sochi, Yarnold has taken on her next extreme challenge to raise vital funds and awareness for the mental health charity.
The GB skeleton racer has been motivated to support Mind, after seeing peers in the world of elite sport face their own mental health battles. Yarnold acknowledges that in professional sport there is huge pressure to perform and a perceived need to appear resilient, which prevents people form speaking out and seeking help when they need it the most. She hopes that through today’s extreme jump, she will cast a spotlight on the issue of mental wellbeing and in turn, encourage supporters to donate or take on their own challenges to help the one in four people who experience a mental health problem every year.
Ahead of the jump, Lizzy said: "I’m really, really nervous! It’s a very different challenge for me, so it’s nervewracking. Skeleton is a world I know very well - skydiving isn’t!
"I’ve always wanted to do a skydive, but it’s always been considered too dangerous because I didn’t want to get injured and interrupt my training. I think as soon as the Olympics were over I wanted to take that chance and get involved, and we’re hoping to raise at least £1,000 for Mind, which is great.
"I know of athletes who have suffered from depression, not just after major events but in training too. As athletes we’re focused very much in our lives on individual moments, like major championships and races, and if it doesn’t quite go to plan you’re always very critical – you forget to do a sense check on your mental health, and you sometimes need to focus on the positive. Sport is quite a hard world, and you never quite know what the future holds. So it can only help to talk about mental health more openly and more freely, and to basically say, OK it’s a difficult subject but let’s talk about it. And Mind is set up to really help you and to help people open up."
Lizzy leapt from the plane, this afternoon at Maidstone airfield, having travelled directly from Kent County Council, where she was presented with the Invicta Award and a donation of £3,000 for the charity. The award recognises residents of Kent who have achieved excellence in their field or who have provided an exceptional service to the county.
Kathleen Miles, Head of Fundraising at Mind said: “Lizzy may be accustomed to extreme sports, but we are absolutely thrilled that after the Olympics, she’s chosen Mind to benefit from her next perilous challenge.
“We know that in the high pressured and uncertain world of sport, many people feel unable to talk about mental health and to access the support they need. Today Lizzy is helping to raise awareness and to confront this stigma. We hope the British public will support her through this challenge and in turn help raise essential funds for the one in four people who experience a mental health problem every year.”
Lizzy and her sisters are continuing fundraising through the online donations page.