Athletes hope their stories will help others struggling with mental health issues


Actors, athletes and even Olympians have come forward revealing mental health issues. Their stories and their courage to share their struggles led to a community of acceptance.

With every split, every flip, every step on the balance beam, mind and body must align for the gymnasts.

Jennifer Shackleton knows this firsthand. She competed for years and now trains at Gymnastics World Naples.

“Gymnastics is a very physical sport, but a lot of it is very mental and a lot of mental things that they have to overcome and it’s a challenge in everyday life because when the mind and body don’t work together a lot of fear kicks in, ”Shackleton said.

Mental blocks, twisties, these are just a few of the names for this mental challenge. A challenge that Shackleton feels is not always discussed.

This is why she was impressed by the withdrawal of Olympian Simone Biles from the team final.

“I say put sanity first because if you don’t you are not going to enjoy your sport and you are not going to be successful as much as you want, so it’s ok sometimes even not to going into big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how a competitor and a strong person you are, “Shackleton said.” She spoke up and said that. It shows the kids that he it’s okay to talk about their feelings and emotions.

J. Webb Horton, former FGCU head tennis coach, believes it is important to change the discourse on mental health for all athletes in all sports.

He’s played sports most of his life, but until recently mental health wasn’t really a part of the conversation. “No one thought of mental health as a real illness. It was kind of a weakness, ”said Horton.

He says athletes like Biles and Naomi Osaka have helped change that.

Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros this summer due to mental health issues and depression.

“We are a more enlightened society and we have to accept that mental health is the same as physical health,” said Horton.

Cortney Van Liew, a FGCU volleyball player, said: “I think over the past few years I’ve realized how taking care of your mental health can impact your athletic ability. “

Van Liew says the pressure of the game can be tough. “You have people who expect you to do well, people who expect you to win. Even the pressure you put on yourself can start to weigh you down if you’re not careful.

So she uses her platform to encourage others to talk about the pressure and their mental health; even when they are struggling.

“I mean a few years ago I couldn’t have talked about it or even wanted to have this conversation and as it continues to be de-stigmatized and the conversation is open it makes it a lot easier to get through whatever you do. cross, ”said Van Liew.

Because it takes a strong mind and a strong body to be a strong athlete.

Below are mental health resources available to Southwest Floridians nationally and locally.

National Hotline for Suicide Prevention

David Lawrence Center (Collier County)
(239) 455-8500

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry Counties

The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free manual
Circle of Care: A Guide for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Health Court

Lee County Mental Health Court

Alliance of support for depression and bipolar

Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

US Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Assistance)

Local Resource for Veterans: Home Base SWFL

Copyright 2021 Fort Myers Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

Naomi C. Amerson