AFH News | World Mental Health Day

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AFH News

Athletes, Mental Health & How AFH is Addressing the Stigma

Reflecting on our work in advance of World Mental Health Day Tuesday, October 10, 2023.

One in five adults experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives. For athletes, the issue of mental health is even more prevalent with around 35% of elite athletes suffering from burnout, eating disorders, and/or anxiety and depression. On the collegiate side, data suggests out of the general student population experiencing mental health challenges, 30% of them seek help, whereas out of the student-athlete population, only 10% do.1  Furthermore, suicide is the third leading cause of death among athletes.2

Performance anxiety, relentless pressure, and the emotional turmoil that can follow a career-ending injury can significantly impact an athlete’s mental well-being. These facts underscore that mental health isn’t a trivial matter; rather, it stands as a crucial element affecting an athlete’s performance and overall wellness.

As we approach World Mental Health Day on October 10, Athletes for Hope (AFH) is underlining its dedication to emphasizing the importance of mental health in both athletics and society at large. Led by our Whole Being Athlete Program and our 22 Mental Health Ambassadors, our goal is to create and strengthen a network that inspires and activates a robust community to break down existing stigmas of mental health, in and out of sports. Since the inception of the program in 2021 and the addition of our Mental Health Champions Club in 2023, we have aimed to make a significant impact through various initiatives, always focused on changing the stigma around mental health by empowering athletes of all backgrounds to advocate for systemic change.

Education: We collaborate with organizations and experts in the field to provide athletes with training, resources and support. This ensures they have access to the tools necessary to address their mental health needs – and to support others – through our Mental Health Resource Hub.

Storytelling: We believe that sharing stories and opening up conversations about mental health is an enormous part of the work to break down the stigma. We feature athlete-written mental health stories and panel discussions, giving athletes a platform to share their stories, advocate for change, and find community with each other. 

Convening: AFH works to spread awareness in communities by hosting and supporting events nationwide, including the first Athlete Mental Health Advocacy Day at the U.S. Capitol this May and by holding monthly or quarterly committee meetings with our advocates, athletes, and key stakeholders.

Advocacy: Initiatives such as the Mental Health Champions Club and the Pledge to Reach Out are using the power of sports to bring wellness, kindness, and self-care tips to our community members. We work every single day to convene athletes and organizations that work every day to strengthen athlete mental health collectively.

AFH’s commitment to mental health in athletics is not just a matter of advocacy; it’s a matter of fundamental importance. As research shows, mental well-being significantly impacts athletics performance, and by extension, it touches the lives of millions who look up to these athletes. With an estimated 55% of kids in the U.S. participating in youth sports programs, there is a remarkable number of young people looking to elite athletes as role models in how they manage their careers, community, and mental health. It is critical that youth today have access to resources and support through their mental health journeys.

This World Mental Health Day, we invite you to join us in recognizing the profound significance of mental health in athletics and beyond. Together, we can create a world where mental health is prioritized, the stigma is eliminated, and support is readily available to all. Athletes for Hope stands strong in this mission, and we invite you to stand with us.