Thanks to Katie Barnes for contributing this story to our Project: Speak series on athletes’ experiences with mental health in their coming out stories.
On November 29th, GO! Athletes held a Twitter chat on the topic of mental health. We discussed stigma, personal experiences, and access to services in a powerful 60 minute conversation. Personally, I left that space with a renewed commitment to supporting LGBTQ athletes beyond competition, and I’m sure many others felt similar.
Here were the questions asked:
- Do/Did you feel safe being honest about mental health with your peers/teammates/coaches/colleagues?
- What do you think impacts feelings of safety in terms of mental health in sports? Why do people not feel safe to share?
- What can be done to lessen the stigma of perceived weakness around mental health in athletic communities? What have you seen work?
- What are some of your go-to websites or resources when seeking support or positivity?
- Do you feel like the resources available to you on campus/at your workplace are adequate? If not, what would make them better?
- If you could tell a struggling athlete one thing, what would it be?
Many participants did not know about the extent their campus provided support for mental health needs until they specifically sought them out, while others felt their schools did not invest enough in services such as counseling centers.
Another topic covered during this discussion was the origin of the stigma facing mental health within athletic spaces. For many participants, athletics creates a focus on toughness, physical and mental. Seeking support for mental health carries the stigma of weakness, which is something difficult to hurdle personally, and also with teams.
More than just identifying problems, however, participants in #GOchat also thought about how to fix some of these things. Many felt that coaches and administrators could truly make a difference by setting a tone within their programs that creates space to discuss mental health, instead of only emphasizing strength and toughness.
The chat was amazing, and we can’t wait to do more. If you have ideas for what you would like to talk about, email Katie Barnes at Katie@goathletes.org.
Here is a sampling of some of the conversation:
Project: Speak is a story-sharing series to promote conversation surrounding mental health, addiction and suicide in LGBTQ* athletes. If you are an athlete interested in sharing your story, contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org.