If triumphs can define a person, then so can their struggles, too.
Like many athletes, I’m a competitor. I love the feeling of taking on a new challenge, conquering it, and pushing myself to improve as an athlete.
But, that’s the physical side of sports. When your mind doesn’t cooperate, then where can you turn?
That’s something I’ve experienced personally.
I think back to my junior year of high school when I had my first anxiety attack. The experience was so overwhelming, and never having gone through it before, I had no idea what to do.
Thankfully, I was near two of my coaches who helped me get through it.
But I only got to that point because I neglected my mental health until I couldn’t anymore. At the time, I felt like there was such a big stigma around it that I couldn’t get the help I needed.
I know everyone isn’t as fortunate to have those people in your corner who won’t judge you and help you through those hard times.
That’s why working with the Powerful Minds program means so much to me. I’m hoping that through this program we can let people know there are resources and people out there who will help you — and, more importantly, want to help you.
It shouldn’t be something that you’re scared to get help for.
In fact, it makes you human.
And that’s where the Powerful Minds campaign comes in.
In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a conference-wide initiative that brings awareness to mental health in student-athletes.
I’m very glad that we get to be a part of this effort here at SMU, and our SAAC is committed to making sure that these programs get the attention that they deserve.
When Anabelle Corcoran took over as SAAC president and I became our executive vice president, we knew that we had a chance to help our fellow student-athletes navigate a challenging period in their lives.
We had a conversation about how to bring awareness to mental health, and we both agreed that the Powerful Minds campaign was the best way.
October 2-8 is mental health awareness week, and we are trying out a variety of projects.
One of the things we worked on to emphasize our efforts, for example, is hosting a mental health popup event.
Additionally, we’ve been ordering green items for athletes who have games this week, and we hope to spread the message of mental health across athletic programs.
Furthermore, we have therapists here at SMU who are exclusively available to athletes — but obviously, not everyone feels comfortable taking advantage of those resources. So, we invited those experts to speak with the athletes so that they become trusted and familiar faces.
Those are all important steps in the process.
After all, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t exactly help everyone’s mental health.
There was already a rise in the number of mental health issues facing athletes over the last couple years, and the pandemic only accelerated those trends.
Personally, I think it’s more important now than it’s ever been.
That’s why it heartens me to see famous athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka open up about their mental health struggles.
Even the greatest, most successful athletes are going through these same struggles. If they can summon the courage to get the help they need, others can too.
Especially considering there has been a rise in student-athlete suicides, mental health has to be a focus for all athletes.
I’ve been there — a place where you feel at your lowest and like no one else is there to help you.
But, people are there and ready to help.
The biggest thing I want to emphasize is that it’s okay to struggle with mental health.
What’s not okay is to struggle silently, because here at SMU we have the resources and people available to help navigate these difficult challenges.
I know it’s scary at first, but these people are here to help us as their job, and they truly care about you and your well-being.
It’s a great resource, even if you just need to vent or discuss something that’s bothering you. I learned that lesson a long time ago – keeping things buried deep down only leads to even more stress and worries down the road.
Once I embraced my mental health and worked with a therapist on it, I began to feel freer as a result.
Yes, some of those same issues still pop up and force me to deal with my own fears and worries in life. But, I truly feel more confident in my ability to conquer any mental challenges that come my way because of the progress I’ve made in recent years.
As student-athletes, we’re busy, and we’re stressed a lot of the time.
But, that doesn’t mean we have to let the stress and worries of life consume us.
Like I said, it’s perfectly fine to be at a spot in your life where you might not want to open up about your mental health. But, if you can find the courage to do it, I truly believe you’ll be better equipped to handle future pains and problems as a result.
I know that’s the case for me, and it’s why this week of mental health awareness is so important.
You are not alone. You are loved, and you are cared for here at SMU.
Just reach out a hand.
I’ll be there to grasp it back.