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Reflecting on 2022... The Year of Athlete Vulnerability

In the year 2021, high-profile athletes such as Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles publicly spoke out about their own mental health struggles throughout their athletic careers, producing an abundant increase in attention to the world of athlete mental health. Such occurrences have been the catalyst to a larger conversation surrounding the well-being of athletes and the ways in which we fall short in providing proper resources and support for these populations.

Fast forward to 2022. More nuanced conversations began to occur about the mental health of athletes where top athletes such as Michael Phelps and Paul George stepped forward in vulnerable ways. This year, strides were made to remind fans, competitors, and athletes-alike that these athletes are more than mere entertainers or machines, they are also human beings.

According to Kristi Oshiro, a professor at Belmont University who studies the lasting impact of racism on athletes, the athlete mental health scene has greatly improved since her college softball days: “When I played in college, we not only lacked the relevant resources but the awareness and also the language to describe the mental health struggles or even the racism that we endured at the time... it was like you knew you were going through some things, but you didn’t know it was maybe depression or anxiety.”

However, there is so much more to be done. In order to properly support athletes as entire human beings, we must invest in both their physical and mental well-being. Oshiro states, “When you look at how many things are available for athlete physical facilities, weight rooms... there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure it’s even for mental health, too”. Increasing access to mental health resources is imperative for athletes of today to thrive, rather than merely survive. Let's make it happen in 2023.



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