Prior to the race, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken some important steps to ensure that athletes feel psychological support in the Olympic Village. First, with the release of Athlete365, a publicly available electronic toolkit for Olympians that focuses on mental well-being that includes expert advice, stories from athletes, and a 24/7 mental health line. This is a really valuable resource considering that an estimated 35 percent of athletes suffer from mental health crises that can lead to anxiety, malnutrition, burnout or depression. The IOC also said that psychologists and psychiatrists will be on site at the Olympic Village to help the athletes. “The sports psychologist of each National Government will be on the ground in Beijing, moving between different villages but is available to all athletes,” said Torey Anderson, PT, DPT. He adds that the Olympians will also have access to other “emergency mental health resources”, free subscriptions to the Headspace meditation app and a mental health hotline.
American Olympic skier Bella Wright says that after facing a broken Atalos bone in December and recovering just in time to compete, she feels “all things” as she prepares for Beijing. “COVID-19 has definitely added a lot of stress to our competitions and especially to big events like the Olympics. We are all in our own bubbles and we try to stay as healthy as possible to be able to compete at the highest level,” he says. .
Although Wright had not arrived at the Olympic Village at the time we spoke, she says that so far she feels that the IOC and the US team are taking steps to protect the athlete’s entire mental well-being. “I feel like everyone was very attentive to the athletes’s mental health and provided a lot of opportunities for anyone who wanted to take advantage of them. We had a lot of different emails, zoom calls and presentations on how to access these mental health resources,” says Jason. Brown, a figure skating Olympian for the U.S. team, agrees that mental health seems to be a high priority for the Games this year. “U.S. figure skating [team] “He also has a team psychologist coming to Beijing.”
Brown, who won a bronze medal after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, knows first hand that these mental health resources can make a huge difference — especially when competing internationally. “I just want to emphasize again the importance of mental health in the Games. “During the Olympics there are so many emotions to work on, so much energy being thrown at you, expectations from others and yourself and love being sent to you in the most amazing way from around the world,” he says. “It’s so important to have ways to bring yourself back to earth.”
Only time will tell if athletes’ mental health is really at the forefront — not just at the Olympics, but also in high school, college, and the professional level. As with many sporting issues today, solutions must address the problems that exist — in a systemic level. And while mental health resources are not a holistic solution, they are a start. At the moment, both Wright and Brown intend to make the most of the competition ahead. “I believe that everyone who goes to the Games is ready to live just a childhood dream and I feel really grateful to have the opportunity to compete despite all the challenges,” says Wright.
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