Recent deaths of female college athletes draw attention to mental health

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In 2021, sports fans around the world learned about the issue of women’s mental health in sport thanks to Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka.

Osaka is a Japanese tennis champion. But last year she said she did not want to speak to reporters at the French Open tennis competition. After her first match, Osaka decided to withdraw from the event. She said critical questions from reporters caused her to lose trust in his ability to play.

Later, Osaka said he experienced long periods of intense sadness known as depression after winning the US Open in 2018.

At the postponed Summer Olympics in Tokyo, America’s top gymnast Simone Biles missed some of her best events. She said she felt too much pressure to perform. She said she was “fighting” with herself. Biles left the gymnastics team competition and the USA gymnastics team got the silver medal instead of the gold.

FILE – Simone Biles of the United States performs her floor exercise routine during women’s artistic gymnastics qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Biles returned to competition at the Olympics and won a bronze medal. At the end of the Olympics, she said she would take some time off, but did not say whether she would try to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Almost a year later, Osaka is playing tournaments again. She recently reached the final of the Miami Open in the US state of Florida.

Not only professional athletes

Osaka and Biles are two of the most famous women athletes in the world. But university sports officials in the United States worry that not enough is being done to support the mental health of young female athletes.

Many women compete in athletic competitions for colleges and universities. Their softball and football games go unseen by millions on television. But their health remains an important issue.

Additionally, some young female athletes are now making money in their sport and feel pressured to present an image and meet the demands of sports trade agreements.

Stanford basketball players wear the letters KM on their wrists in honor of Katie Meyer, a soccer player who died by suicide earlier this year.  (AP Photo/David Becker, File)

Stanford basketball players wear the letters KM on their wrists in honor of Katie Meyer, a soccer player who died by suicide earlier this year. (AP Photo/David Becker, File)

But this year, the deaths of female athletes have shown that mental health is just as important as physical health. Three American college student-athletes have died by suicide. Katie Meyer was 22 years old. She was a football player at Stanford University in California. Sarah Shulze was a 21-year-old runner at the University of Wisconsin. The third was 20-year-old Lauren Bernett, one of the top softball players on the James Madison University team in Virginia.

Efforts to Support Mental Health

Paul Newberry is a writer for the Associated Press. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote, “Let their death not be in vain.”

That means he hopes officials overseeing college sports consider mental health just as important as physical health. He suggested they should do more to prevent young athletes who might be depressed from harming themselves.

Jane Timmons-Mitchell is a professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She spoke with Newberry and often said that when people hear about young people committing suicide, they ask “why?” But she wants people to ask, “’What?’ What can we do about it? How can we be most helpful and effective? »

Paul Myerberg writes about sports for the USA today. He said some groups at major universities with ties to the sport, known as conferences, try to help athletes with their worries and concerns.

At the end of 2021, three major sports conferences teamed up to bring attention to the mental health issues of college athletes. The mental health plan is called Teammates for Mental Health.

Kevin Warren leads a group of schools called the Big Ten Conference. He said, “This initiative is designed to remind all of us, especially our student-athletes, to to prioritize our mental health and seek professional help when needed.

Dr. James Borchers is the Big Ten’s Chief Medical Officer. He told USA Today that adults who play college sports need to make mental health “a topic that’s okay to talk about…without any kind of stigma or without any sort of judgment.

Newberry said the stories of the three young women should inspire people to “renew” their commitment to helping those in need. Newberry called for being vigilant and having “love and compassionrather than judging others.

In this file photo from July 31, 2012, American Allison Schmitt holds up her gold medal after winning the women's 200 meter freestyle final at the <a class=Olympic Park Aquatics Center during the London 2012 Summer Olympics . (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa De Olza, File)” src=”https://gdb.voanews.com/10312515-90d9-4e4d-a90b-ac5e72156f2b_w250_r0_s.jpg”/>

In this file photo from July 31, 2012, American Allison Schmitt holds up her gold medal after winning the women’s 200 meter freestyle final at the Olympic Park Aquatics Center during the London 2012 Summer Olympics . (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa De Olza, File)

out of the dark

Allison Schmitt won four gold medals medals in her career as an Olympic swimmer. She said she thought about hurting herself even after winning medals at the 2012 London Olympics. She said no one ever wanted to feel that “but that feeling is a reality for many people and their families. families”.

Schmitt said many people who feel like hurting themselves are scared but don’t know how to “come out of the dark.” It took him three years after the Olympics to find professional help.

Timmons-Mitchell said many people have felt lonely over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions made it harder for athletes to keep in touch with friends who weren’t on their sports teams.

Pandemic changes

Even though they love their sport, Timmons-Mitchell said, some athletes feel like the sport has reclaimed their identity.

“It really is the perfect storm,” she said of the pandemic.

Dr. Ashwin Rao is a sports physician at the University of Washington. During the pandemic in late 2020, he presented to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. He said depression affects young women more often than other groups. Rao said during the pandemic, it’s been harder for coaches and sports doctors to spend time with college athletes.

As a result, they were unable to recognize behavioral changes. He offered a fix:

“(Spend) time with your athletes as best you can to find out who they are. So if their behavior changes, you can identify it,” he said.

I am Jill Robbins. And I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this report for Learning English from an Associated Press article.

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words in this story

trust– nm the feeling that you can do something well and be successful

athletes– nm a person trained or good at sports

in vain – phrasing: used to mean not producing the desired result

initiative – nm a plan or program to solve a problem

to prioritize – v. make something the most important thing in a group

stigma – nm a set of negative or unfair beliefs that a society has about something

compassion – nm the feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick or in difficulty

medal – nm a piece of metal shaped like a coin, given in honor of an achievement, such as winning a contest

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