Layne Beachley: Depression at the Height of Fame - Hope 103.2

Layne Beachley: Depression at the Height of Fame

Seven-times world surfing champion Layne Beachley speaks out about her battles with mental illness - and the keys to her recovery.

By Clare BruceMonday 6 Jun 2016Health and WellbeingReading Time: 3 minutes

Above: Layne Beachley. Image: Facebook

Whether you’re facing a serious mental struggle, or simply having a blue day, it can help to know that others people have been there too—and recovered.

Especially fabulously successful people, like Layne Beachley.

The seven-time world surfing champion and wife of INXS rocker Kirk Pengilly was at the peak of her pro-surfing career, travelling the world and living the life of a sports celebrity, when she realised she was “not OK” mentally.

Layne spoke out this week about her emotional and mental health battles, at a OneWave event reported on by Fairfax. One of the keys to mental health, she said, was opening up and talking to someone when you’re struggling.

“When you’re in a state of pain and suffering and restless the worst thing you can do is ostracise yourself,” she said.

Hiding her pain was a mistake Layne made early in her emotional struggles, as she didn’t want to be a burden to others. But there was a cost to her silence; during her darkest times she would daily think about how she might end her life.

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The Keys To Layne’s Mental Health Recovery

Layne Beachley and Kirk Pengilly

Above: Layne Beachley and Kirk Pengilly in 2004. (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)

Thankfully, around the time of her sixth consecutive world title competition in 2003, Layne’s fellow surf champion and friend Guy Leach prompted Layne to ‘fess up. He had noticed she’d become very negative and unmotivated, was worried about her, and asked what was wrong.

The conversation was a key turning point towards her recovery.

These days Layne, now 43, is more aware of her emotional ups and downs, and more willing to admit when she’s struggling. Borrowing a popular phrase she said “it’s totally OK to be not OK”, and that being honest and admitting she needed support have been key in her recovery. She encourages others to do the same.

“The sooner you get dissatisfied with your current state of being, the sooner you’ll start taking proactive action towards doing something different,” she said. “The best way we can overcome [a dark time] is by talking about it.”

Embed from Getty Images

Layne said she has also found great strength in her friendships in the surfing community, and from spending time in the nature – especially the ocean. She said surfing has saved her life many times, as it “brings her back to the present”.

“The great thing about immersing yourself in the ocean is you have to feel – it makes you feel and you have to feel to heal,” she said. “Surfing… makes me feel alive, it makes me aware, it makes me present, it makes me sometimes cold, it makes me excited, it makes me alert…thoughts and emotions that bring me back to present moment.”

In a separate Fairfax report Layne has said she was ruthlessly competitive and driven early in her career but has since “learned to slow down”.

How To Help A Friend With Depression

At the OneWave event, Layne also gave tips on how to help a friend who’s going through an emotional valley.

“A word of encouragement, an offer of financial support, a shoulder to cry on, someone to listen to you – that’s all it takes,” she said. “It doesn’t have to change the world to be important…we all have the power to change someone’s life.”

Find Help

If you need are struggling emotionally, call Lifeline on 131144, the Salvos on 135247 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.