Recently, there's been a very prominent wave of athletes prioritizing their mental health over their high-profile careers and pivotal moments like the Olympics and championships.
Among those leading the charge in removing the stigma associated with mental health are Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, Liz Cambage, and Raven Saunders. In a recent feature with NBC News, Saunders explained her journey with her public mental health struggles. In 2016, she placed fifth in the Rio Olympics for women's shot put. She returned home, but her victory was short-lived. The year after placing 10th in the Athletics World Championships, she admits to having a breakdown.
Career aside, "navigating life as a Black, queer woman only added to the stress and she entered a period of depression, and suicide ideation." She detailed, "I would base my self worth and how good I was as a person on how I was doing in track. When I ended up not having a good World Championship meet, it sent me further into that hole. I knew I was drained, but I still tried to push through."
Saunders is just one of many who have openly spoken on their mental health journey, especially as an athelete. Osaka stepped down from both the French Open and Wimbledon because her mental health was more important. The rare move was highly regarded among her peers, spectators and tennis legend, Billie Jean King. Cambage felt that the Olympic bubble would induce a panic attack and chose to withdraw. Biles discusses therapy and her use of anxiety medication. Simone Manuel, Olympic swimmer, took a break after being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome.
In light of these events, LeʼRoy Reese, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Morehouse School of Me