World Mental Health Day: Oli Jones – How Tennis Saved My Life
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Hi, my name is Oli. I am Head Tennis Coach at Brooklands Sports Club in Sale, Manchester, and I have Bipolar Disorder.
As many of you will know, this Saturday 10 October 2020 marks World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is suicide prevention and, in my role as an LTA Mental Health Ambassador, and to try to help anyone else involved in our sport that may need it, I wanted to give you all an insight into my life to date…
My dad took his own life when I was 18 months old. In 2012, after suffering from a suicidal bout of depression myself, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and then, in the months that followed, Bipolar Disorder.
After getting the support that I needed back then, I have spent the last six years trying to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. That is something that is more important now than ever, because as we all know, in March 2020 things became very difficult for a lot of people…
As a tennis coach, my life and living was shut down and my mental health became yet another massive challenge. One thing that always resonates with me and my mental health is structure. Once we went into lockdown, my daily structure was taken away and my ability to cope severely diminished. It wasn’t just a financial scenario. It was a social scenario too, and it then became a survival scenario.
Tennis has always been the one constant factor in my life right from a young age. I first started playing aged 9, and I first started coaching at 14. Through trials and tribulations, I am still coaching now at the age of 38 and love it more than ever. Tennis has been such a unique and integral part of my life for over 20 years and I would go as far to say that tennis has saved my life on several occasions. Let me explain…
Let’s rewind to 2012. I was a successful coach and had a very successful and blooming programme at Brooklands Sports Club. I had been rackets manager at David Lloyds, Warrington and Head Coach at Stockton Heath, Cheshire, but throughout this time I had been hiding my true feelings of a terribly poorly person.
It all came to a head that year, and given the fact that I was well known within Cheshire Tennis at this time it came as a big shock to people when I openly confirmed that I had suicidal depression and had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
I am naturally a very loud, outgoing, amiable person and people just had not realised that I was suffering these internal demons. I’ve now been managing these issues for eight years and I could not have coped with them without the input of so many people in the tennis fraternity. There are so many names I could mention but I won’t. They know who they are.
In that respect, tennis, on many different levels, is the reason I am still here.
I still have my ups and downs but it is tennis that is the one constant in my life. I have lots of friends at the LTA to which I owe a huge gratitude, particularly the opportunity to help others,, but the main source of support over the last 10 years has undoubtedly been my club, Brooklands Tennis Club.
The tennis committee has changed over the years but the one thing that has remained the same is the support and love they have given me. It is something that I treasure and something that can be used as an example for other clubs. My personal relationships with our members and committee members is something that I will treasure for as long as I live, and there are several people that have become involved in my life, who didn’t need to be but they have wanted to help.
Again, I will stress this point as when you think about it, the power of the sport and the impact it can have is truly amazing - these people and tennis have saved my life on several occasions.
Like I said, I have suffered from suicidal depression; my father took his own life through suicidal depression. I know people that are suffering from suicidal depression and I urge you, the tennis community, to spread the message of love, support and togetherness through such a wonderful medium as tennis because it really will change people’s lives.
As of today? I am feeling pretty good and I wish you all a very productive World Mental Health Day for this Saturday.
If I can help save one life through my words then sharing my story in this way will have been worthwhile.
Tennis Coach & LTA Mental Health Ambassador
World Mental Health Day
Compared to non-tennis players, regular tennis players are*:
- 12% happier
- 27% more likely to feel their can achieve their goals
- 8% more satisfied with life
- 14% feel what they do in life is worthwhile
- 37% more trusting of local community
*Statistics taken from the LTA's monthly tracker survey that obtains c1,500 16+ people, weighted to be nationally representative of the GB population.All stats are looked at on a 12-month rolling basis, with a total base of c.20,000 a year.