mental health month Archives - Athletes for Hope

Whole Being Athlete Series | Mariah Parsons, Notre Dame Rowing

Whole Being Athlete Series | Mariah Parsons, Notre Dame Rowing

The Whole Being Athlete Series is a platform for athletes to share their stories about their own mental health journey. Please be advised the following article contains mental health content that may be triggering to some. 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.


I am beyond grateful for all the opportunities I have been given and woefully aware of how many people have helped me become better versions of myself every day. That being said, it hasn’t been a smooth process. There were days or even several months where I had no desire to go to practice, to class, to lift, to that party, to that interview, to that meeting. I really started to struggle maintaining my mental health sophomore year. We were doing selection work for competition when I broke my rib. My injury, along with challenges in my personal life, was the perfect storm to destroy my mental health. I became frustrated with my own body and its inability to function without pain let alone perform at the collegiate level. It drove me to an internal scrutiny that I had never felt. I tore myself apart from all angles and refused to ask for help, mostly out of my own stubbornness and independence. But, I also felt the unspoken pressure to be gritty, tough, and to ‘dig deep’ and push back through it all. That’s what we do when racing, so that mentality of getting after it bled into all areas of my life. There was no mental relief from myself or the fact that I felt useless to my team. I felt I had gone from being at my strongest to my weakest and all it took was a millisecond snap of a rib. My perception was that the rehab I was doing wasn’t as important as the intense hard work my teammates were doing. I felt cast aside and forgotten about even though I was still present in the erg room. I felt alone and invisible in a room full of my teammates.

Those days still resurface every now and then and to this day I still regret being so stubborn for so long and not reaching out to a professional sports psychologist earlier. But, if it wasn’t for my teammates, I don’t think I would have ever felt better. A few of my teammates who had gone through or were going through similar situations took me under their wing and showed me the hope I’d lost. If you or someone you know is struggling in a similar way, my best advice would be to rely on your support system and that it’s okay to rely on them heavily. I used to think asking for help was weak, shameful, and selfish, but I’ve since learned asking for help welcomes a deeper relationship. Because of my own journey with mental health and my constant struggle to open up I have challenged myself to start a platform, called Learn 2 Listen, for anyone to share their story in an effort to end the stigma of silencing our mental health stories. Through this process of forcing myself to write and talk about my own struggles I have been embraced by family, friends, and strangers in a way that was a huge relief to me.

With any type of performance-based task, such as athletics, we have this notion that showing vulnerability is a weakness. We see in movies the superhero struggles to have loved ones because that is a vulnerability that the enemy can exploit, it becomes a weakness to show emotion and struggle. In athletics, there’s this unspoken acceptance from coaches and teammates that if we aren’t mentally strong, we are not as good of an athlete, but this should not be the case. We’re taught to push the pain away, to dig deep, and perform even when every muscle fiber is screaming to stop and every brain cell is on exhaust and to shut the emotions out. When an athlete hits a personal record and overcomes this physical challenge, we admire this accomplishment, but the same outlook is not mirrored when it comes to mental health. This is what I hope will change as society opens up about our vulnerabilities, because we all have them. I hope we commend each other for their bravery and perseverance to work on their mental health and happiness. I hope we admire each other when we finally get to where we want to be in our life. I hope we change the narrative of mental health and instead of viewing these challenges as weakness, we admire the person’s effort to do their best each and every day.

 

AFH Announces Mental Health Initiative: The Whole Being Athlete

Please be advised the following article contains mental health content that may be triggering to some.


This past year has been incredibly challenging for everyone’s mental health. A recent survey by the CDC found rates of self reported behavioral health symptoms to be double what they would have been pre-pandemic including: symptoms of anxiety or depression, having started or increased substance use, stress-related symptoms, and having serious thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days.  

Athletes have not been immune to experiencing mental health struggles during the pandemic as an NCAA Student Athlete Well-Being Survey recently explored. The Survey found that student-athletes reported elevated rates of mental exhaustion, anxiety, hopelessness and feelings of depression. These rates were even more elevated in student-athletes of color, women, those on the queer spectrum, those living alone and those reporting financial hardship. 

Recent studies highlight the way that mental health symptoms for elite athletes may even be heightened compared to those in the general population yet the unfortunate fact remains that the stigma of getting support for mental health is just as strong. AFH has also heard from countless athletes across all levels and sports who are struggling with their mental health or who want to take action and support others. For that reason, we are excited to open spaces for athletes to share about their own mental health journeys and link athletes to resources for support. Athletes for Hope’s initiative is a layered approach, rooted in advocacy and resource sharing, all amplified on social media in order to support the “Whole Being Athlete.”

In response to the challenges faced over the past year in particular, Athletes for Hope is thrilled to announce the launch of an ongoing Mental Health Initiative created to support athletes wherever they are in their athletic journey and beyond. Beginning today, we’re kicking things off to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. Over the next 31 days AFH will be sharing engaging resources, compelling athlete stories and various ways to get involved in order to stop the stigma around mental health. Join us by tuning in, connecting and activating around mental health awareness and action.

AFH is grateful to help share the mental health stories of some brave athletes to inspire and support athletes on their own mental health journeys. Each week we will feature blogs, social media events and connections from professional, Olympic, Paralympic and student-athletes. We invite others to share their stories or participate in our events throughout the month and believe there is power in telling, sharing and owning our own stories.

Advocacy efforts in May will focus activations and service opportunities that feature and elevate the work of AFH’s mental health partners. AFH will host weekly discussions on Instagram Live with mental health partners that will be focused on how to advocate for mental health. These partners include:

  • The Hidden Opponent
  • Alliance of Social Workers in Sports (ASWIS) 
  • The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Sports Psychologist, Dr. Jessica Bartley
  • Danielle Berman of Tackle What’s Next

AFH will also offer resources every Friday during May to help athletes feel good during these challenging times including: Live yoga classes, guided meditation, and mindfulness exercises. Our “Feel Good Friday” sessions will elevate the positive examples of staying active and taking time for self care.

AFH is excited to contribute to the conversation around Mental Health by facilitating a discussion in front of 300 corporate executives about mental health as part of the Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), offering Trauma Informed Training with DocWayne internally and externally and hosting check-ins throughout the year for our AFH athlete and partner network.

It is AFH’s hope that through an ongoing and robust approach to athlete mental health well-being we can all work to end the stigma of mental illness and strengthen athletes who are struggling with their own. With Pride Month in June, trainings for AFH University (AFH U) student-athletes around disaster preparedness, 9/11 Day of Service and World Mental Health Day in October, AFH will have year-round opportunities to not only shine a light on mental health but also take an intersectional approach to ending this stigma and advocating for better mental health resources for athletes at all levels. We aim to uplift the Whole Being Athlete.

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.

Be Kind to your Mind: Mental Health Resources

We are focusing each week in May on mental health resources to share with our athlete network. We are excited to share resources and tremendous nonprofit organizations that are working to support athletes in the mental health space. We will continue to share resources via our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as focus targeted content through our blog each week to spotlight nonprofits organizations working to support athlete mental health in a number of ways. We are thrilled to be launching our Mental Health Mondays starting next week, Monday May 18 with a feature on our friends at Hilinski’s Hope!

Our focus this month will be on the following nonprofit partners:

Have a mental health resource to share! Please tag us or share it via social media @athletesforhope

Coming soon: Thursday, check in with a Mental Health Expert! This week, on Thursday May 21, from 3pm CDT/4pm EDT until 5pm we’ll be meeting with Anita A. Daniels, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CCS from Actualities Limited who works with student-athletes at North Carolina Central University and Duke University and is the Vice President of the Alliance of Social Workers in Sports.

 

This week we’ll be focusing on athlete identity during crisis, addressing setbacks and barriers during the pandemic and check-in with anyone in our athlete network who has any questions or concerns to share with a mental health professional. We’ll hold two sessions, one on Thursday, May 21 and one again on Thursday, May 28 so stay in touch or watch our social media for login details. Details for Zoom link to follow on Monday!

Here’s what we saw this week from Dr. Arezoo Khanzadeh (@DrArezooK on Twitter), a licensed clinical psychologist from North Star Therapy that made us pause and reflect on our week:

Here’s a trauma informed pandemic webinar we attended this week with WeCoach and Dr. Bruce Perry from the Neurosequential Network called, “Sport in Healing & Resilience-building: Neurosequential Network Series on Stress and Trauma” Take a listen and you can view his slides in the link here.

Part of the Neurosequential Network  resources shared online included this fantastic toolkit for parents during pandemic times:

Did you know? There’s a Black Male Athlete Empowerment Group meeting every Friday to provide connection and support.

Black Male College Athletes Empowerment Group
JOIN US ON FRIDAYS AT 12 PM CST
FOR THIS UPLIFTING AND EMPOWERING GROUP FOCUSED ON
ISSUES IMPACTING BLACK MEN & COLLEGE ATHLETES
REGISTER TODAY BY SENDING YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION TO  BLACKATHLETESINFO@GMAIL.COM

Hosted by:
Keino Miller, PhD,
Brad Hambric, LPC, LCAS-A, NCC, BC-TMH
Emmett Gill, Jr., PhD, MSW, LMSW

Sharing Stories of Hope During Mental Health Month

Athletes for Hope is committed to raising awareness about mental health challenges, barriers and resources during the month of May. We have seen a collective outpouring of love and support for and by athletes around the world who are staying home and keeping safe during this global pandemic. However we know that the athlete mental health crisis didn’t just begin with the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve seen some incredible examples of mental health stories and resources from ESPN and the “We are Team USA” mental health campaign from the US Olympic and Paralympic committees and are encouraged by so many higher profile athletes speaking out about their struggles with mental health. Their example sets a positive precedent forward for others who may be struggling in silence.

The mission of AFH is focused on the education, connection and recognition of athletes connecting to causes that are meaningful, and the mental health of athletes is on everyone’s mind as we collectively struggle in this current experience.

This month, we’ll be promoting a variety of mental health resources, sharing organizations that are actively supporting athlete mental health, creating tips for teams, coaches and athletes and providing much needed advocacy opportunities around athlete mental health. Over the course of the next 31 days we’ve lined up shareable social media posts, blogs and online content that we hope will encourage you to connect and engage with us in meaningful dialogue around the various facets of mental health.

As we launch our Mental Health month campaign, here are a few things to focus on for your own mental health while at home:

  • Identify a space to work and/or workout
  • Keep active: Physical health promotes strong mental health
  • Connect with teammates, friends and family via phone, FaceTime or text
  • Establish a routine
  • Follow positive news stories-take time away from daily news to find videos, quotes or stories of inspiration
  • Create something new-finding joy in discovering a creative side of your day can take your mind off of stress.

Follow along as we join with #MentalHealthMatters #MentalHealthMay #AthleteMentalHealth.

Have a resource to share? Tag us at @athletesforhope or send it to SPotts@athletesforhope.org.

 

Mental Health and Athletes

Inforgraphic that reads "46.6 illion adults in the US face the reality of managing a mental illness every day"

Mental Health & Athletes

Approximately 46.6 million people are living with mental illness in the US. That’s 1 in 5 adults who will be living with a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Many manage symptoms with therapy, medication, eating a healthy diet or exercise. Research has shown that the benefits of exercise can boost moods and improve overall mental health. By moving our bodies we can increase our endorphins and enkephalins, two of the bodies naturally producing hormones that make us feel better. It also allows us time to concentrate on ourselves instead of our busy lives, a much needed break many of us.

However, playing sports does not make athletes immune to mental health challenges. With pressures to perform in the game, as well as in the rest of their public lives, being an athlete can be incredibly challenging for a person’s mental health. Student-athletes have additional pressures to maintain their classwork and grades on top of practice and games. When athletes get hurt, they receive time to heal, but what about when those injuries are invisible?

With young adults, especially college athletes, the statistics are startling: 33% of all college students experience significant symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. Among that group, 30% seek help. But of college athletes with mental health conditions, only 10% do.  Among professional athletes, data shows that up to 35% of elite athletes suffer from a mental health crisis which may manifest as stress, eating disorders, burnout, or depression and anxiety. We’re inspired by athletes such as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps,  USC Volleyball player Victoria Garrick, NBA player Kevin Love and those who are telling their stories and inspiring others to seek help to support the cause.

While it may seem scary, there are small steps you can take to help your mental health. Talk to your family, teammates, coaches or support staff; someone who you feel comfortable sharing what’s happening with you. Make an appointment with a therapist or trusted medical professional to help you identify sources of stress and manage your symptoms. Create a Self-Care Plan for yourself to make sure you’re setting aside time from training, academics and pressures of daily life to do something for yourself each day, such as meditate, practice yoga, take a walk, listen to music or walk your pet.

Here’s a self-care plan worksheet from SocialWorkTech.com to help get you started:

In English

In Spanish

Check Out Resources

Here are a few resources if someone you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis.

Share Your Story

Sharing your personal mental health story can make a difference. Breaking down the stigma can help others find the strength to get health. Dr. Emmett Gill, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas says, “Athletes are becoming true champions for mental health. Athletes are not just talking the talk, but they are sharing their walk, through their own mental health challenges, and in doing so these courageous men and women are not just changing sports, but forever changing society.”

Victoria Garrick of USC shares her personal story in this TEDxUSC talk called Athletes and Mental Health: The Hidden Opponent


Call to Action!

What can you do to help? Here are a few options to consider about ways to take action around mental health.

  • Talk to a friend. Listen or share your story around mental health challenges and connect with a friend or family member. Sometimes that one on one interaction may be just what you both need to connect and feel better.
  • Share on social media/share resources. Consider sharing messages of support or retweeting mental health resources for others to see.  Use #mentalhealthawarenessmonth or #endthestigma to join the online conversation.
  • Share your story. If you are in a safe place and feel ok about sharing your own personal story, it can be a powerful tool not only for yourself but for others who may be struggling.
  • Donate/connect to a cause. Want to do more beyond social media? Consider connecting to a mental health charity or make a donation to support their mission.

Talking about and dealing with mental health can be tough.  However, athletes are natural leaders and courageous self-starters and can be the key we need to tackle the challenges and stigma around mental health! If we work together to bring mental health into our regular conversation, we can open the door to create real change in the way we think and talk about mental health.

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

by Robin Kuik, UT MSSW & MPH Candidate 2019 and Suzanne Potts, LMSW, MPH