AFTER struggling with postnatal depression, a mum found mental strength thanks to learning to swim.
Mary Keita, who is originally from The Gambia, didn’t have access to facilities as a child and so never learnt to swim.
The 40-year-old, who now lives in Portsmouth, said: ‘We had the sea and we were told horror stories of children drowning and told never to go in the water, so we didn’t, and I never learnt to swim.’
After having her baby Mary found herself in a low place but read an article which suggested swimming could help improve her mental wellbeing.
She said: ‘After having my baby, I was crying every day. I knew I needed to do something to change this feeling, but I’d never even thought about swimming because I was afraid of the water.
‘I was very anxious before my first lesson but the hard work has paid off and I’m in a better place now, especially mentally, and that’s all down to swimming.’
The mum, who swims at Mountbatten Leisure Centre, has teamed up with the #LoveSwimming Campaign to encourage more people across the country to get involved after recent figures suggested as many as one in three adults in England cannot swim.
Mary added: ‘I hope it will make people realise they are not alone in their feelings and give it a go.
University of Portsmouth student Andrew Kamara also had fears of swimming thanks to his childhood in Sierra Leone where there were many superstitions about the sea.
It wasn’t until the 25-year-old arrived in Portsmouth and applied for the Royal Navy that he decided to learn to swim.
He said: ‘I recently finished my masters and applied for the navy which is my dream but I know I have to work hard and really improve my swimming.
‘I’ve had brilliant teachers around me supporting me and really encouraging me to succeed. If I can do it anyone can.’
Andrew is also part of the #LoveSwimming campaign.
Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive added: ‘By telling stories of inspiring people like Mary and Andrew who have learnt in later life, we hope to encourage more individuals to take up swimming.’