People don’t get much tougher than Australian Winter Olympic gold medallist Alisa Camplin AM. The ex-gymnast, accomplished sailor and medal-winning aerial skier has suffered nine concussions and broken a lot of bones and tendons.

But Camplin is finding the impact of Covid-19 tough to manage. Now an accomplished motivational speaker focused on resilience, human performance and preparation for success, she has cut short her world travels this year to home school her two children.

“For someone perceived to be so mentally strong, and with so many tools and techniques at my hand, I have still found the last three months to be exceptionally difficult,” Camplin told a recent virtual roundtable discussing the profound impact of the coronavirus on society’s mental health, hosted by Investment Magazine and AIA Australia. You can read the opening feature in this mental health series here

“To be descaling when I’m used to scaling in all of my endeavours, I’ve had to draw on skills and take on roles that I’m not necessarily equipped for.”

Camplin learned techniques for managing stress in her sports career through performance psychology. Her training in mindfulness and resilience helped her when dealing with the death of her first son, who tragically died of a congenital heart disease after six open-heart surgeries, aged 10 days old. She went from the expectation to be photographed in magazines with photos of her baby, to publicly sharing her grief.

She is bringing the same tools to bear now. “I’m feeling a lot of internal jitters, heaviness on the chest, toughness in breathing, moderate signs of anxiety,” Camplin said. “I know how to try to offset that. I’m doing more breathing and meditation than I’ve ever done in my life. I’m walking in the mornings and getting enough sleep. I’m taking the small wins every day, like not devouring complete boxes of chocolates or grabbing a glass of wine, they’re small wins for me and it’s where I can celebrate.”

Alisa Camplin during her successful Winter Olympic Games campaign

But it’s still hard for her, and it’s even harder on many others who haven’t had this kind of training, she said. Millions of people are going through what she called a “priorities and values crisis” due to the abrupt changes to their lives brought about by Covid-19, and it is not someone’s fault that they happen to be in an industry pounded by the virus.

“I believe there’s a huge number of people who are in that first half of the spectrum of mental health, and it’s only going to get worse I think as we find some of the government support slips away – people feeling trapped, helpless, struggling with what their purpose is and what their pathway forward is,” Camplin said.

She quoted statistics saying only four in ten people under 26 report receiving some sort of workplace training in mental health and how to take care of themselves, and only two in ten aged 40 and over. Almost 60 per cent of employees have never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health status.

Camplin said she wants Australia to be a frontrunner, world leaders in addressing mental health, through an alliance between business, policymakers and the broader community. There is an abundance of good information about how to stay healthy, but for people seeking help the challenge is finding credible sources and information that has been distilled down and can be practically implemented.

Getting quality information to people who need it most is critical, she said. Few people are naturally resilient, she said, but everybody can learn to be more resilient.

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