Special Olympics Health Messenger Gilmour Borg shared his compelling journey from enduring bullying to emerging as an Athlete Leader, at the European Union's (EU) World Mental Health Conference in Brussels, Belgium, on October 10th.
In a heartfelt speech, Special Olympics Malta’s athlete underscored the significance of mental health prevention, drawing from his personal struggles. Gilmour painted a vivid picture of how bullying and exclusion can severely impact one's mental well-being.
He said: “I come today, with the past of a teenager who lost hope, but with a present full of determination and a future full of opportunities.
Gilmour went on to say: “Growing up, I was labeled and targeted for being me, Gilmour. Bullying made me doubt everything and everyone, most of the time even myself. While society meant an opportunity and a prosperous future for many, it became something which I wanted to detach myself from.
“As months passed by, trusting people became harder and harder, leading me at one point to question 'What purpose do I have in life?'”
He also highlighted the crucial role of educational institutions and initiatives such as the Special Olympics Inclusive Healthy Lifestyle Groups project, emphasizing the need for safe spaces for all.
“If I, Gilmour Borg, hadn’t found my ‘safe space’ in Special Olympics, I wouldn’t be the person who I am today. I wouldn’t be here for sure.
“The Special Olympics Inclusive Healthy Lifestyle Groups in school projects is one that should be praised and valued.”
Special Olympics Malta President Lydia Abela also attended the conference and shared her comments on Instagram afterwards, saying: “It’s ok not to be ok! Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Let us all play our part in raising awareness about mental health. This morning, I addressed the World Mental Health Day Conference in Brussels and highlighted the importance of sports as a preventive tool. Gilmour Borg is a testimonial to this.”
This Conference, led by Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, attracted an audience of EU institutions, national governments, global organizations, and stakeholders.
The primary goal of the conference was to raise awareness of an innovative new approach to mental health, drawing insights from experts and individuals with lived experiences. Participants also gathered to exchange ideas and best practices related to three critical themes: mental health integrated into all policies, promotion and prevention, and equal access for all.
By integrating mental health into all aspects of life, advocating for prevention, early intervention, and equal access, the EU is forging a path towards a healthier and more compassionate Europe.