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Men's Cycling Obree: Vital to talk about mental health to break down stigma

HE WAS a trailblazer on the bike and Graeme Obree continues to challenge norms off it.

The 52-year-old, nicknamed “The Flying Scotsman,” once grappled with depression and attempted suicide.

Now Obree, who twice held the world hour record and twice won the individual pursuit world title, does not turn to drugs — prescription or alcohol — after seeking an alternative.

He has written a survivor’s guide to the illness, being self-published as an ebook soon, and many seek his counsel.

The Scot does not advise — he says some of his actions are not medically recommended — and maintains the battle with the demons is an individual one, without a single solution.

“It’s called change or die. I changed,” Obree said.

“It’s all very well talking about mental health but it’s the creation of a credible alternative.

“I didn’t actually have a problem, what I had was a solution. Depression and suicide were a solution. Alcohol was a solution. It wasn’t a problem.

“I just removed all of the behaviour and replaced it. That’s not recommended.

“People go: ‘That’s outrageous’ and ‘extreme,’ but it’s very effective.”

Speaking during Mental Health Awareness Week, Obree is pleased barriers are being broken down and mental health is more openly discussed.

“It’s a difficult field but it’s good people talk about it. The more people talk about it, the more it helps remove the stigma.”

Obree said he now lives in the moment but he reflected on 25 years previous during a recent visit to the Herne Hill Velodrome in south London.

Obree pioneered positions on a bike to maximise aerodynamics and showcased these at Herne Hill, earning sponsorship and, eventually, a place on the Great Britain team.

“If Herne Hill had not been here, then I may not have broken the world hour record because I wouldn’t have had a facility to showcase what I could do,” Obree said.

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