During the first 18 months, the USOPC Mental Health Working Group made progress for U.S. team athletes

During the first 18 months, the USOPC Mental Health Working Group made progress for U.S. team athletes


View of the Moguls Course at Genting Snow Park on January 30, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.

  • Creating the first mental health registry of 200 professionals available to the US team. All mental health professionals have at least five years of experience working with elite athletes.
  • Bartley and her colleagues were present at the Tokyo 2020 and Paralympic Olympics in Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, hoping to make contact with the US team in a more informal way to get to know each other and gain confidence. They met in the Athlete’s Lounge with an open invitation for anyone to come for an interview.
  • And most recently, the psychological services department was merged with mental health under the heading of sports medicine. Mental health services will not be segmented by performance vs. other medical problems.

“There’s a lot and it’s just the beginning of what we want to do,” Bartley said. “I see that we are building the momentum to achieve the effect we need to have; it’s a step-by-step look at every part of what we do, see what it does, and ask ourselves how we can improve it and what athletes need. ”

Dr. Kensa Gunter, a member of the working group, said she was encouraged to move forward in mental health for USOPC athletes.

“The biggest factor I see is how we offer services to the people we strive to serve,” said Gunter, a clinical and sports psychologist. “Athletes need to know that what we offer matches what they need. Everyone has different needs and it is important that we let them speak in a safe place so that we can hear their voices. For me, it boils down to the resources we have to be real, relevant and related. Thanks to the continuous provision of services, from those we manage ourselves to more personal ones, athletes can find their best space within what we do. We want our services to be about wellness – less reactive – and more proactive. ”

The members of the working group and Bartley explained their desire to move the conversation about overall mental health to another aspect of the athlete’s overall well-being. Some athletes Bartley met at the games said they did not think they met the mental health crisis threshold – although they admitted they had certain issues that needed to be addressed.

Member of the working group Dr. William Parham has worked with the National Basketball Players Association on mental health. He said the main point of emphasis must be to change the way we think about how the athletic community – from coaches to athletes – views the value of mental health.

“I want us to get to a place where mental health and wellness is like exercise, training, nutrition in a sports space, it’s part of a training system, it’s part of life,” Parham, a professor of professional counseling at Loyola. Marymount University School of Education, she said. “I guess when that happens, people will see an exponential increase in talent, team chemistry, team competition and performance, followed by an increase in the purchase of season tickets and fan equipment. If you invest in the mental health and wellness of athletes – everyone wins.

“We have to reverse the narrative: mental health is wealth. I feel that the USOPC is in a position to move forward for its athletes. They are gathered on the right path. ”

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