By Mai Foringer
As many of you know, September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, which kicks off Suicide Prevention Month. Mental Health has come to the forefront of discussions and debates in recent years; well known celebrities and athletes have stepped forward to show their support for loved ones who struggle or have struggled with their mental health, or even shared their personal journey with mental illness. While we have improved tremendously in our dialogue surrounding Mental Health and Suicide, there is a lot of improvement to be made in certain circles, namely the Sports World.
As athletes get older, moving through the levels from High School JV/Varsity to collegiate and pros, the spotlight on them becomes brighter and brighter. When people think of big-time athletes, they picture someone who is strong mentally and physically all the time. Athletics demand a lot from a person, more so as they get older, so it’s assumed they’re more than comfortable in their positions and in the spotlight because that’s the reward they get for working so hard.
But that isn’t always the case.
With every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What I mean is, any sort of commitment has its pros and cons. Athletes are healthy, fit and have a second family in their team (hopefully). On the flip side, there is an unspoken rule of having a certain level of mental toughness. Sort of like when you’re at practice or in the weight room and you hear your trainer or buddy telling you “One more! One more! Come on, push through it!” That’s the part where you dig deep and do that last rep, or finish the interval even though you literally feel like your body is about to give out on you.
Well unfortunately, that mental toughness has a tendency to creep in to the parts of life that it should stay away from. Every person has a breaking point, and no one has any right to dictate what point that is for anyone else but themselves. The fact is, because most sports are in teams in some shape or form, everyone’s limits get stretched out a bit through training and discipline. The question is; how should a team manage when one of their players gets pushed past their limits?
Welcome to Project: Speak. This project was made to continue the conversation surrounding mental health, addiction and suicide in LGBTQ* athletes throughout the rest of National Suicide Prevention Month. Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing blog posts from our athletes about their experiences with mental health within their coming out stories. The material can be heavy and may be triggering, but the overall message with sharing these stories to begin with is this: you are not alone. There is someone, somewhere, who is dealing with or has dealt with a similar situation as yourself. You don’t have to carry the burden alone.
No two stories are the same, that’s true, however it gives people the chance to both connect with a story and grow with the advice given to apply to their own situation.
If you are an athlete interested in sharing your story, contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if someone you know exhibits the warning signs of suicide, do not leave the person alone; call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), take the person to an emergency room, seek help from a medical or mental health professional, or call 911.
If you are in crisis, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). If you or someone you know are an LGBTQ* youth, the Trevor Project has a 24/7 crisis outreach and suicide lifeline set up so that you can get in contact with one of their trained counselors via text message (1-202-1200), online chat or phone call (866-488-7386).