Woman's battle with mental health led her to winning bronze medal

Woman's battle with mental health led her to winning bronze medal

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On Friday 28 June our Clinical Practice Tutor, Erica Smith, entered the Master’s National Track Championships in Newport, Wales, and bagged herself a bronze medal in the process.

This was Erica’s first time competing in a national cycling championship having only previously raced in a local racing track league at Derby Arena.

In her own words Erica is “highly obsessed with cycling.”

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She said: “This journey for me is about my mental health and not the medal.

“I’m proud to have achieved it, but my recovery is a constant process and the cycling is a part of me maintaining my mental health and well-being.”

Erica was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2013 but continued with her role of Paramedic up until July last year when she made the hard decision to give up the road after 17 years of operational service with East Midlands Ambulance service.

She said: “being a paramedic was my dream job and I loved it so much, but I had to make the hard decision to stop my active duty to protect my mental health”.

“Apart from cycling, I also really enjoy driving and I prided myself on being a responsible driver of the ambulances.”

“I also missed the crews, and especially my crew mate that I used to work with, so that made the decision to leave harder.”

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After Erica’s initial PTSD diagnosis, she sought expert help and went for specialist counselling and this lead to her decision to take up cycling again, something she had not done since being a child.

Erica said: “My therapist asked me about my passions and that’s when she suggested I join a cycling club.

“I was extremely nervous when I signed up, but my fears soon faded.

“I am so grateful for her advice as it took my life in a direction I never could have expected or felt was possible.”

She competed in a sponsored event back in 2017, riding up Mount Ventoux in France, which is a staggering 1910 metres high.

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She said: “I attempted to ride up Mount Ventoux three times in one day, but I only managed to do it twice. I still raised over £2,000 for the Notts and Derby Air Ambulances.”

Erica has recently been through re-deployment and is currently working as a Clinical Practice Tutor in the education department at Clifton, a post she has been in since January 2019. Next month she starts her new role as a trainee driver tutor.

She said: “East Midlands Ambulance Service and my manager have been very supportive during this period, as have the education team at Clifton during my return back to work.

“Mental health should be an open conversation that any of our staff should feel safe to discuss without having to worry about the stigma that normally accompanies it.”

There’s a wide range of support out there including tips on the NHS website, Time to Change, Mind, and the P2P scheme for all EMAS colleagues.