Athletes for Hope

The Whole Being Athlete Initiative: May 2021 and Beyond

Mental Health Month 2021 Recap

After a long global pandemic year, a lost Olympic year, postponed or cancelled sport seasons, distance between family and friends and almost 600,000 American deaths due to COVID-19, now more than ever athletes are struggling with their mental health. With 1 in 5 people being diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s become the number one requested cause from our athlete network for advocacy, connection and support.

In recognition of May and Mental Health Awareness month, AFH launched our “Whole Being Athlete Initiative” and expanded our collective knowledge about athlete mental health. We invited athletes to share their mental health journeys and heard remarkable stories from athletes such as Mariah Parsons of University of Notre Dame Rowing, Gabby Seiler of the Houston Dash, and Natasha Hastings of Team USA Track and Field.

We collaborated with mental health and sport partners such as The Hidden Opponent, Alliance of Social Workers in Sports, Athletes Unheard and Tackle What’s Next via a weekly Whole Being Athlete Instagram Live conversations in order to elevate their work and voices. Jack Beer, a former Georgetown Men’s Soccer player who struggled with his own mental health during a championship season, facilitated these discussions each week with additional guests such as Paralympian Jenny Sichel and Dr. Jessica Bartley, USOPC Sports Psychologist.

Along with the advocacy action steps as shared by our Whole Being Athlete series guests, our Take Action Thursday social media series also focused on encouraging our network to get involved and advocate for those living with mental health challenges and on May 20, we served as a Founding Partner of MTV’s Mental Health Action Day. At the end of the week, we hosted “Feel Good Fridays” with a guided meditation, a mindfulness practice, a whole body scan and shared an informative sleep video created in collaboration with our athletes and partners at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Behavior Technology Laboratory.

What’s next?

As part of the ongoing Whole Being Initiative, we plan to collaborate more in this space and continue to listen, learn and educate on critical issues facing our athlete network. We are collaborating with the incredible team at DocWayne who is facilitating an internal staff training on trauma informed care. We are eager to learn about and use these best practices to support our athlete network as they continue on their philanthropic journeys in communities around the world. Their team will be providing an external training on “Breaking the Silence” in August to continue the education of our athlete network. Along with continuing to offer a platform for our Member Athletes to share their mental health stories, we will continue our advocacy to de-stigmatize mental health among athletes and communities.

The Whole Being Athlete Initiative launched this May, but the work does not stop here.

If you are a mental health organization that supports athletes or athlete advocate and want to collaborate in this work, message Suzanne Potts at spotts@athletesforhope.org or Kylie Reeves at kreeves@athletesforhope.org.

If someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hotline 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) M-F 10am-8pm Eastern or info@nami.org.