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Sharing Mental Health Struggles

by Beth on August 17th, 2021

This summer we witnessed more professional athletes sharing their mental health struggles. Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open to tend to her mental health, then Simone Biles chose not to compete in gymnastics events at the Tokyo Olympics due to her state of mind.

Naomi and Simone followed the example of other athletes who have also shown the courage to speak openly about their mental health challenges. In 2016, before the Rio Olympics, Michael Phelps shared that he had faced depression and suicidal thoughts. In 2018, Kevin Love had a panic attack during an NBA game, which led him to talk about his battle with anxiety and depression. Another NBA player, DeMar DeRozan, opened up about his depression earlier that same year.

It’s especially powerful when professional athletes talk about their mental health struggles because people see them as superhuman. But they are human, they have feelings, and they aren’t always OK. Having the courage to share their stories and admit when they are not OK helps them and helps others.

Over 50 million American adults suffer from issues related to their mental health, yet, as common as it is, there is a stigma surrounding it. When people speak openly about their challenges it helps to normalize the anxiety, fear, and depression so many are feeling. DeMar has said that he is trying to do his part “to make sure there is zero shame or stigma for anyone working to make their mental health a priority”. Athletes who share their stories help to promote understanding and empathy among those without mental illness. They also let those who are struggling know they are not alone, which could encourage them to seek help. Michael Phelps told Naomi that she may have saved a life by speaking up. 

People who talk about their mental health challenges often report feeling much better, experiencing greater self-awareness, stronger social connectedness, a sense of purpose, and personal growth. According to Michael Phelps, “life became easy” once he began to talk about his feelings. Naomi said it “taught me so much and helped me grow” and Kevin Love wrote that “being able to speak about it has been therapy for me as well.”

I’m so grateful to the athletes and other celebrities who have been brave enough to share their mental health stories. We all either suffer from mental health issues or know someone who does. People who speak up and encourage open dialogue about mental health help us all.

From → Health, Well-being

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