I’ve been so inspired by the professional athletes taking a stand and protecting their mental wellbeing in the last few months.
Naomi Osaka declined a news conference in an effort to exercise self-care, revealing that she’s struggled with depression and anxiety.
Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic competition in Tokyo over the summer saying, “I say put mental health first. Because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to.”
And Venus Williams wrote for the New York Times, “If I wanted to thrive in this sport — and in life — I needed to take care of my ‘whole self.’” She expressed that it wasn’t her upbringing in Compton that made her tough, it’s the time she has spent focusing on her psychological well-being.
Nearly 60 million American adults experience mental illness and/or a substance use disorder in a given year. And what a lot of us don’t realize, that these women are showing us right now, is that mental health care cannot be separated from physical or holistic health care.
I eagerly look forward to the day when it isn’t brave for professional athletes, or regular humans, to talk about their mental health. Because the reality is, addressing mental health is addressing the whole person. When we shirk mental health, we are ignoring an important part of our health. This is applicable to every human, athlete or not.
Just as we go to our physician for routine health screenings and physicals, having a regular mental health visit is one way to be proactive instead of reactive. One of the fallacies of therapy is that it’s only there for after trauma or something ‘big’ happens. But the reality is much different. We see people in all walks of life, experiencing every emotion on the scale. New relationships, a change in careers, transitioning into college, parents, leaders; the list goes on and on. Anyone who has a brain has mental health to tend after. You don’t have to be a Venus or Simone to make it a priority. Each of us deserves to feel whole and healthy, and at the root of this is your mind.
The next time you visit your doctor for an annual physical, think about calling a mental health practitioner for a check up on your mental health. There’s never a wrong reason to visit with a therapist, we’re just glad you’re taking care of yourself!