Amel Mouhtadi owes her life to martial arts.
Twelve months ago, the Mount Annan resident was depressed, suffering anxiety and taking a variety of medications to treat her mental health.
Things got so bad that she made two attempts on her own life.
But everything turned around when she found muay thai.
“I took up muay thai to give myself a chance to lose weight, but it did so much more,” Mouhtadi said.
“I lost 55 kilograms in 12 months and won the Western Region Championship title last month.
“But it’s turned my whole life around – I’m a completely different person to who I was a year ago.”
Mouhtadi said the support and connection she found at S.M.T Muaythai Gym and Fitness center completely changed her life.
She started running 10 kilometres every day without fail and working on her fitness, and she soon saw the results not just in her body but in her mental wellbeing too.
“It’s made an unbelievable difference to me,” she said.
“I no longer suffer depression, I no longer have anxiety, I’ve made no more attempts on my life and I’m not taking any medication for my mental health.
“I’m a better person, a better friend, a better partner because of martial arts.
“I can’t imagine my life without it.”
Mouhtadi said she was sharing her story because she didn’t want anyone else – especially youth – who was struggling with mental illness to feel like there was no hope.
“People are out there suffering, they’re taking their lives in droves and if this can help them I can’t keep it to myself,” she said.
“Why should this be a secret just for me? Everybody should know what martial arts can do for you.”
Mouhtadi said she owed her life to muay thai and trained in the sport fours hours a day.
“I love the respect you earn in the sport and the opportunity it gives you,” the 38-year-old said.
“You’ve got to use your whole body, you’ve got to use your elbows and knees and train really hard to be the best you can be.
“It was really difficult for me when I first started but I had to push through.
“That’s what muay thai teaches you – to never give up, no matter what, to just keep fighting on.
“If I can do this, anyone can.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental illness, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.