Performance and skill are often the focus for athletes when it comes to sport, but now Nike is aiming to highlight mental health and wellness with equal importance. In partnership with nonprofit and counseling service Crisis Text Line, the global sports brand’s hope is that professional and everyday athletes will seek out guidance when they need it, as well as making sure that the help provided is easily accessible.
Last week, Nike hosted a conversation moderated by Angela Davis between Crisis Text Line’s Chief Transformation Officer Dr. Shairi Turner and athletes Laurie Hernandez, Scout Basset, and Hayden Hurst, who all shared their own personal journeys with mental health.
“It's really beyond providing support to those in need, we are joining Nike to spread the message that asking for is powerful. It's a very powerful expression of strength,” said Turner during the discussion.
Hernandez, who took the world by storm as part of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team’s “Final Five” at the 2016 Summer Olympics, realized the importance of mental wellness during competitions and practices. “It started out with me not really understanding what was happening, especially when it came to my own actions during practice. Me not wanting to do things, me not wanting to get out of bed, me crying and melting down before competitions,” she tells NYLON. “I didn’t understand what these things were, I just assumed that they were normal — and to an extent, they are. But there were big parts of me that were questioning, ‘OK why aren’t my teammates full on melting down before they compete? They look just fine.’”
After speaking with her teammates and looking more into mental health, she was able to understand where her nervousness, trembling, and that feeling of “my chest is going to fall out of my body,” as she describes it, was coming from. “Turns out good ol’ panic attacks were happening before meets, and that’s anxiety,” says Hernandez. “Over time, I was able to not put a label on it but at least understand what’s happening. My body’s reacting a certain way? I’m having a panic attack. I don’t want to get up in the morning? My depression is acting up a little bit. And then what can I do to help those things?”
For those just starting their own mental health journey or still struggling on where to start, Hernandez finds journaling or talking to someone are both great options. “Comprehending mental health, especially on your own, can be a scary thing because nobody wants to have ‘problems;’ nobody wants to have to have ‘extra issues’ on top of what they’re already facing in their own lives,” she says. “So to be able to address that and to talk to someone about it is the perfect first step into understanding.”
Crisis Text Line is a nonprofit that provides free, 24/7 counseling help, connecting anyone seeking support to trained Crisis Counselors — all via text messaging. At any time, day or night, texters in the U.S. will be able to connect with trained counselors by texting the word “STRONG” to 741741.