mental health Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Athletes for Hope

Let’s reduce the stigma of mental health! Take the Pledge to Reach Out today

AFH Opinion

AFH Opinion

AFH Staff Opinion

Our Work Must Go On: What’s Changed Since Our First Mental Health Article?

Written by Suzanne Potts, LMSW, MPH & Rachel Chao

In 2019, we published an article talking about the real need for resources for athletes to protect and support their mental health. We shared these startling facts: approximately 35% of elite athletes experience mental health challenges, and only 10% of collegiate athletes in need of mental health resources actually seek them out. When we published it, there was a small minority of athletes who were willing to share parts of their stories, and mental health was only starting as a more common cultural conversation. 

In 2019, we could not have imagined where this conversation would go. 

Three years later, we’re still committed to elevating stories of athletes’ mental health journeys, and advocating for increased accessibility, awareness, and acceptance of athlete mental health resources.

Three years later, we’re still committed to elevating stories of athletes’ mental health journeys, and advocating for increased accessibility, awareness, and acceptance of athlete mental health resources. We solidified our dedication to athlete mental health by launching Whole Being Athlete in 2021. We are grateful and humbled to lift up the voices of our Mental Health Ambassadors, who have had the courage to share their own stories. We have worked with remarkable partners such as Doc Wayne, Hilinski’s Hope, The Hidden Opponent, PBS’ Well Beings and others who inspire us with their activism and courage. We have committed to consistently adding resources to our Mental Health Resource Hub, to ensure that help is never that far away. Athletes at all levels, from high schoolers to Naomi Osaka, have spoken out more and more about the importance of protecting their own mental health and supporting others to do the same. Organizations and teams have begun to do more work to re-examine how their environment impacts the mental health of their athletes. 

In the last three years, so much has changed, and yet  so much more work needs to be done. This conversation continues as a reaction to devastating losses in the sports world. In the spring semester of 2022, there have already been five confirmed student athlete deaths by suicide – each of these losses representing more than an athlete, but a person with hopes and goals and a community that misses them daily. In the last few weeks, we have had the opportunity to speak to current, future, and former athletes who have reached out to us, asking what they could do to help. Each of them have shared stories of their own challenges, and feelings of isolation, anxiety, or despair they experienced as an athlete. With these conversations, we heard a common theme of gratitude that this topic is coming up more and more… and the push to ensure that other athletes know that they are not alone.

Our work is just beginning, and this conversation is nowhere close to ending. Where do we go from here?

We go with courage, to start hard conversations. We created the Pledge to Reach Out to encourage athletes of all levels and abilities to reach out to their teammates who may be struggling. We will continue to reflect as an organization, to recognize how to better take care of ourselves, and our athletes.  We will take action when needed.

We go with recognition of the lives that we’ve lost. We remember the humanity of the athletes who have died by suicide. We think of their family, friends, and teammates, and will continue to hold them in our hearts. We are inspired by the families and friends involved at Hilinski’s Hope, Morgan’s Message, The Hidden Opponent, Doc Wayne, and so many other incredible organizations invested in supporting athlete mental health.

We go with resources and hope. We will continue to give a platform for stories of those who are willing to share their stories, to remind people that there is help and support waiting for them, whenever they’re ready to access it. We will continue to share hotlines, websites, and organizations that provide mental health support. We will continue to prioritize education around mental health and wellness. We will commit to bringing together athlete voices, stories, resources and more to elevate opportunities to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

Wherever we go next, we’re ready for the challenges ahead. We hope you will join us.

AFH Opinion

Stop Asian Hate, Support Asian Mental Health

In a year of fear, the mental health of AAPI athletes is more important than ever

by Rachel Chao, AFH Graduate Social Work & Public Health Intern

I am a truly terrible runner, but without fail, I continue to run. In the past, I have never hesitated to run through the streets wherever I am. I listen to my music, or my breath, and feel pride at each of the steps. Even at my slowest or after the worst run, I have always maintained a love to get out and go. 

But in the last year, my runs have been tinted with anxiety. I, and many other Asian-Americans, have felt an increased sense of fear. In response to racist rhetoric and fear-mongering, Asian and Pacific Islanders in America have been blamed for COVID-19 and targeted in attacks throughout the country. For us, it felt like every day on the news brought a new devastating and heartbreaking report: physical assaults on elders in Chinatowns across the country, online harassment with racial slurs, verbal abuse yelled at AAPIs on the street. It brought a collective grief and fear to a community. My friends, family, and I would check in with each other: have you already bought pepper spray? Are you walking with someone else so you’re not alone? Before the new Lunar Year in February, I wrote my grandfather an email. Please, I said, be safe. Please look out. He emailed me back saying that he would, and I shouldn’t worry too much over him. He told me that the Year of the Tiger would be good luck. 

Rachel and her dad running across the finish line of a running race.
Rachel and her dad cross the finish line of Run for the Water in Austin, TX

It feels fitting that this May will be both National Mental Health Awareness Month, and Asian-American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Research published in 2020 found that AAPI and mixed race athletes have higher risk of depression and suicidality than their white counterparts. Evidence also shows that AAPIs also have the lowest rate of seeking out support for mental health challenges when they need it, when compared to other racial/ethnic minorities. Additionally, we face a unique risk because of deeply-held cultural stigmas. Many Asian and Pacific Island cultures have a stigma against mental health concerns, seeing mental health challenges as trivial or dealt with through personal responsibility, which further isolates those who are suffering. 

In the last two years, these vulnerabilities have been paired with the rise in racist attacks. AAPI individuals have felt a rise of true fear and even violence – and athletes have been no exception to this. Sunisa Lee, Olympic gymnast, was pepper sprayed and yelled at with racist slurs while standing next to her car. Golfer and USA olympian Danielle Kang shared her experience of being told to go back to China (she’s Korean-American). Chloe Kim was subjected to online abuse with threats and slurs, and shared how her mental health detrimentally suffered. At all levels, Asian-American athletes have been at an increased risk for anxiety, hopelessness, and depression.

I cannot say if the Year of the Tiger has brought us the luck, prosperity, and protection that we collectively need. I cannot pretend that I don’t worry for Asian-Americans, especially elders like my grandfather. Our community is hurting, constantly between grief and anxiety. We deserve safety. We belong here. 

I laced up my sneakers today. I texted my dad, as is my habit now, that I would be going to run around my neighborhood. Be safe, he texted back. I felt the melancholy of fear for the first six blocks, then stopped at a light by a young Chinese-American family, with a 3 year old girl. She shyly smiled and waved at me. I waved back. 

The rest of my run, I thought of her and felt a ray of hope in my chest. I wanted the Year of the Tiger to be when the world became a little kinder.

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

AAPI Athlete Mental Health Fact Sheet & Resource Guide

Check out this infographic authored and compiled by Rachel Chao. Share it on social media or use our social media graphics to make your own post!

AFH News

Kickoff Week: Celebrating the Whole Being Athlete

by Suzanne Potts, LMSW, MPH

So much of the world is in turmoil right now, from war in Ukraine, dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, continued racial and social injustices, and more. The sports world is evolving and growing, with pending pay disputes, gender equality discussions and battles over greater visibility for female athletes. It seems no one is escaping the stress of work, family or personal trauma and more athletes are addressing the important topic of mental health. 

The Whole Being Athlete Program (WBAP) was established last year to uplift and elevate athlete voices to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.The vision of the AFH’s Whole Being Athlete Program (WBAP) is to build a powerful mental health community that empowers athletes to share their stories to raise awareness, access, and acceptability of mental health resources, with a focus on underserved populations. We believe everyone has the power to own their story and that by sharing experiences, we can empower and encourage others to seek help as needed. 

On Monday, April 18, 2022, Athletes for Hope is proud to kick off a week of celebration and announce our first Whole Being Athlete Ambassadors as examples of professional, Olympic, Paralympic and student-athletes who courageously join the growing number of mental health advocates. We look forward to announcing them on Tuesday, April 19th. These amazing leaders will collaborate with AFH along this journey to tell their stories, highlight resources, and encourage others to bravely step forward as advocates for better mental health.

In May, with support of other mental health partners and advocates, Athletes for Hope will share advocacy opportunities, service activations, personal stories and resources around athlete mental health. We will feature a wide range of mental health organizations, along with elevating athlete voices and evidence-based data about why mental health is a growing concern for us all. Our hope is that by using our collective voices to speak openly and honestly, we can help reduce the stigmas around mental illness for all.

We encourage you to join us each week via our social media and engage in this crucial conversation that impacts us all. If you’d like to get involved with this work at Athletes for Hope, please let us know here.

If you or 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

Whole Being Athlete Series

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

Why Mental Health Matters

by Mariah Parsons, Notre Dame Rowing ’21

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

World Mental Health Day and Athletes

Today, October 10, 2020, is World Mental Health Day, and organizations around the world are sharing resources and focusing a much-needed spotlight on mental health. The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused a public health and mental health crisis that will continue to have far-reaching impacts for decades to come. Recent research shows that 53% of American’s reported feeling that their mental health has been impacted as a result of the pandemic due to “stress and worry.”

Today on our AFH social media feeds, we’ll be featuring stories of athletes, organizations, and resources to recognize and empower other athletes to join in the global mental health discussion. We hope that more athletes will come forward with courage and support others who may be silently struggling. We plan to elevate the work of incredible organizations working in this space and actively share resources for those in need.

We will continue to advocate for issues that impact athletes from across the globe and include athlete voices in the critical discussion. We invite you to read our OpEd on Athlete Resilience in Mental Health published in July 2020 and share it with those you know who may need to hear they are not alone.