An amputee who became a professional snowboarder after losing his leg in a road accident has been giving talks to schoolkids on mental health awareness.
Andy Macleod was just 18 when he suffered a brain injury and leg trauma in Fort William in March 2011.
Brave Andy, who was born in Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, but now lives in Stirling, was struck by a car doing more than twice the 30mph limit as he cycled to a friend’s house.
Since the incident, the 27-year-old has returned to sports including off-road cycling and hiking while he sets his sights on the 2022 Winter Paralympics.
Speaking at the start of ‘Movember’ – the leading global organisation committed to changing the face of men’s health – the athlete revealed he has been talking to schoolchildren across the country about the importance of setting life goals and remaining positive through tough times.
Andy, a client of Watermans Solicitors, said: “I’ve been doing motivational, inspirational speeches to schools and disability organisations.
“There are so many messages I convey in this. My talks aren’t just about overcoming adversity but mental health, mindset and road safety as well.
“All of these messages are very important to schoolkids. I went to my old high school at the beginning of May to introduce their mental health awareness week.
“I’m still in the process of setting myself up and doing it in a more legitimate way. I definitely feel like the school talks are the most important, yet the least able to be funded.”
Following the accident more than eight years ago, Andy spent almost a month in hospital, then six months living at home where he received rehabilitation for his brain injury and learned to walk again with a prosthetic leg.
He was supported by a legal team from Watermans, who have since sponsored his work and helped to provide him with snowboarding equipment which has aided his success.
Despite losing his leg and suffering a number of psychological traumas following his ordeal, Andy said his struggles only make him more determined to succeed.
The crash survivor is now preparing for the upcoming season by working alongside the Scottish Institute of Sport at Stirling University to take part in weight training and fitness before he takes part in a competition in Dubai this month.
He is also aiming to compete in Snowboard Cross and Banked Slalom at the Beijing 2022 Paralympics.
“There’s been peaks and troughs for sure,” Andy admits. “I’ve been working with a private psychologist on and off for a long time now after the accident.
“The things that I’ve been through and the lessons that I’ve learned along the way, I think they would be helpful to anybody and everybody, even if they haven’t been through something traumatic like myself.
“I’ve done talks to both my old schools Riverside Primary and Wallace High School in Stirling. I also presented the Gold Duke of Edinburgh awards last year at Holyroodhouse.
“I’d like to do talks in businesses and team meetings to show people that bad things happen but being miserable and crying about it doesn’t help the situation.
“This season I’ve been doing so much strength and conditioning, it’s been nonstop since then but I’m definitely aiming for a podium finish this year.
“The first competition is on the big indoor slope in Dubai during the end of November then at the end of that month I’ve got another competition at an indoor competition in Holland.
“In December there’s the first Snowboard Cross Competition in Finland.”
Andy hopes his mental health and positivity talks will encourage young people to realise that they can still achieve their goals no matter what.
“It’s my passion but it’s more the fact that I can still do these things that keeps me going,” Andy says.
“It affects so many people who have been through similar, worse and even not so bad trauma as myself, who are still struggling, who still aren’t anywhere near as able to do as much as I’m able to. I’m doing it for them as well, pushing to see what the limits are.
“You definitely have to be proactive. I’m not saying it’s all fine and dandy, it’s not an easy process. But there’s definitely a better way to deal with things.
“I’ve been given more direction on where to go and how to take things. Prior to my accidents, I won the only award in my school which was voted by my peers, for being the most inspirational person for having the most positive outlook on life.
“A few people that I know have said to me, ‘don’t take this in a bad way, but we actually can’t think of a better person that this could have happened to,’ because of how I picked myself up, got back on the bike and pushed myself on.
“I could have very easily gone the other way and just given up, thinking my life was done. It’s something a lot of people sadly do.”
Scott Whyte, Managing Director of Watermans Solicitors, said: “There is a Clara’s link to the effect on mental health of someone who is involved in a serious injury.
“This is something we encounter on a regular basis with the thousands of clients we act for each year.
“Despite their best efforts, the NHS is very stretched in terms of providing support to accident victims and it shouldn’t be left to them to pick up the tab when the accident has occurred as a result of someone else’s negligence.
“In cases like Andy’s we were able to recover the cost of treatment to assist in his recovery and support his mental wellbeing as he dealt with the catalogue of injuries that he was left with after he was struck by a car. Without this privately funded support things may have been much more difficult for him.”