Athletes are often seen as larger than life figures. They appear untouchable, perfect, like heroes almost, but behind the trophies and the big contracts they are just people with real life stories and real life struggles. Many athletes have used their high profile platforms to help end the stigma of mental health struggles and share their stories to show that anyone can struggle, regardless of profession or fame.
Nike is encouraging people to talk about mental health, ask for help and be there for those who need it. They recently invited athletes from across sports, including Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst and Paralympic track and field athlete Scout Bassett, to talk about the toll being an athlete takes mental health at a roundtable event.
A video of Hurst walking off the field and talking to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott about mental health went viral in 2020. Hurst can be heard in the video saying he hoped they could work together in the future.
At the roundtable event, Hurst discussed the important moment with Prescott, a moment in which he admitted he forgot he was wearing a microphone:
"I think it just goes to show how mental health affects everybody. It was really kind of an innocent moment, I totally forgot I was mic'd up, but I had heard and seen some of the backlash Dak received for telling his story and I just thought it was completely out of control. I just wanted to go up to him and say, 'Hey man, I've personally gone through similar things, I know what it's like to be in those shoes and I'm here for you in whichever way you need me.'"
Hurst has shared his story, including a suicide attempt and addiction problems. While he admits opening up about intimate details of his life is difficult, he knows the work he is doing to bring awareness to the matter is crucial.
"I had one kid tell me he decided not to pull the trigger because my story came across his platform, and my jaw hit the floor. That is the reason why I do it, if I can just save one person's life," he said, adding that it is important for athletes to share their story because these experiences are relatable.
Hurst has a foundation that aims to raise "awareness of mental health issues in children and adolescents by funding mental health services and programs through donations and fundraising events."
Bassett also touched on how mental health struggles can impact anyone, sharing a similar message of the importance of mental health.
"Well, one thing we know about mental health is that it doesn't matter what gender you are, what your background is, your race, how you identify yourself, it affects all of us," she said.
Being an athlete means commitment to your physical health and staying in top shape, but Bassett says that level of details needs to be shown to your mental health, as well.
"As much time as you devote to the physical qualities of being a champion, of being an athlete, you've got to devote just as much time to your mental health, to your mental fortitude, your strength and the qualities that aren't physical," Bassett said.
She says for everyone, athlete or not, taking care of your mental health not only means asking for help, but making sure you don't take on too much and taking enough time for yourself.
Nike said they know not everyone is comfortable sharing their story or has a support system in place, but through events like the roundtable discussion with these athletes, hopes to begin to change that.