• Phil Packer

Invictus Games medallist & Student Mental Health Nurse, Laura Knowles, becomes a BRIT Ambassador

Laura, is a mental health advocate who has been diagnosed with bulimia, depression and more recently, autism. Sport has been her saviour and Laura feels that she would not still be here today if she had not opened up about her personal battle with mental health. She has represented the UK at the Invictus Games in 2016, the Warrior Games and is now a Student Mental Health Nurse.

Laura Knowles competing at the Invictus Games

“As a student mental health nurse, and having suffered with mental health difficulties, I understand the pressures and challenges that young adults and students face. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for professional mental health support by student and it is vital that they receive help to avoid long-term consequences to their mental health and wellbeing. We need a collaborative multi-agency approach and the vision of the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) to unite the education, sport and charity sectors resonates with me both personally and professionally.

The annual BRIT Challenge is a visionary initiative that provides the opportunity for every university, college, specialist college and Students’ Union to enter teams and encourage their students and staff to participate. The BRIT Challenge is delivering a great community event for students and staff, of all abilities, to improve their mental health and fitness, a UK-wide feelgood February fundraiser for teams to support local regional and national charities, and a catalyst for Students’ Unions to destigmatise mental health and champion inclusivity throughout the year.

I am thrilled to be part of the BRIT Ambassador family and delighted that Liverpool John Moores University will continue to embrace the BRIT Challenge and encourage their students and staff to participate. I also urge Her Majesty’s Armed Forces to promote the BRIT Challenge as a way for Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force units to either support their local university or college or champion the event so cadets and service personnel can enter teams.”

Laura Knowles

Invictus Games medallist and Student Mental Health Nurse

Laura Knowles - BRIT Ambassador

Laura served with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces as a Musician with the Band of the Welsh Guards between 2011 and 2016. After being medically discharged with mental health issues, and just three months after taking up the sport, Laura represented the UK at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Laura in uniform when serving with the Band of the Welsh Guards

At the time, Laura felt the Invictus Games saved her life. After leaving the Army, Laura felt that she had no focus, nothing going for her and experienced suicidal thoughts. Being chosen to represent the UK gave her an amazing feeling and something to work towards. Laura won silver and bronze in the rowing categories and qualified in the final of the women’s heavyweight powerlifting.

Laura continued to train as part of the Help for Heroes’ extensive Sports Recovery programme and was selected to represent the UK at the 2017 Warrior Games in Chicago. Organised by the United States Department of Defence, teams from Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Forces took on the four United States Service Branches and Special Operations Command. After being a Torch Bearer at the Opening Ceremony, Laura won silver in the Standing Shot Put and the team relay in swimming.

Laura celebrating with her Invictus Games Silver Medal

In 2018, Laura was chosen to represent the UK in Powerlifting and Rowing at the Invictus Games in Sydney, however, she had to leave the team to look after her mental health.

Since 2019, Laura has been studying for her Nursing Degree at Liverpool John Moores University. During her time in university, Laura has been elected as the Disability Part Time Officer where she represents disabled students and ensures their voice is heard across all levels of the university and has presented at the NUS Liberation Conference to encourage members to support a social model of support at universities for those with disabilities. Laura has also set up a Mental Health Nursing Society and is the current president. The society raises mental health awareness across the entire student body and works closely with academic staff and the Students' Union to showcase what support is available for students in university and in the local area. Laura is also a Student Mentor and helps supports other students through peer support and has delivered teaching sessions to prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Laura has been shortlisted for the Student Nurse of the Year: Mental Health at the Student Nursing Times Awards.

Laura has been a volunteer at Pathfinders Camp since 2015. She provides personal care, supports campers to get involved in all activities and has also helped organise a virtual camp during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2019, Laura has also been a volunteer with The Trussell Trust at her local food bank.