It’s all over the news, athletes suffering from mental illness, and the world didn’t know. It happened to Dak Prescott and Raven Saunders. The sports community has for a long time shied away from discussions on mental health, but thanks to Black athletes such as Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, the conversations are becoming more prevalent. Here is a quick look at seven exceptional Black athletes who are at the forefront of advocating for mental health and fitness among athletes.
1. Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott is triggering conversations that other people are not ready to have. The NFL quarterback went public about his struggle with depression shortly after his brother’s suicide. Prescott also mentioned that during the COVID-19 quarantine he began feeling emotions he never felt before, one of them being anxiety.
“I obviously got the help that I needed and was very open about it,” he said per Sports Illustrated. “I think that’s why I was fortunate enough to get over it, as not all of us are.”
His expression of vulnerability and openness served as a reminder that athletes, despite their success, face mental health challenges and need support.
2. Simone Biles
Simone Biles made shockwaves in 2020 when she pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics. She received backlash from the public, with some people saying that her decision was a sign of weakness. However, her choice to take time to take care of her mental health showed athletes that it was OK not to be OK. Her decision has since created an opportunity for mental health discussions in the sports community.
3. Allison Felix
Track and field star Allison Felix has made remarkable achievements in the sport but has extended those efforts in advocating for mental health.
The now-retired athlete uses her influence to raise awareness of mental health and to advocate for the protection of new and expecting mothers with her non-profit, &Mother. She has spoken about her experience with near-fatal birth to shed light on the challenges faced by female athletes during pregnancy and postpartum.
4. Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall, too, has silently struggled with mental illness during his NFL days and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2011, just when his career was taking off.
Brandon has shared his experience with mental illness to raise awareness. He views mental health as a form of fitness and aims to make mental health accessible through his initiative, HOA+.
5. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is not only a champion on the court. The professional tennis player is also an active advocate of mental health. She values self-care and treats her mental health with as much importance as her physical fitness.
She has appeared on several platforms, including Selena Gomez’s channel, Wondermind, to discuss what mental health means to her.
6. Naomi Osaka
Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka's long struggle with anxiety and depression has made it difficult for her to perform work obligations. In 2021, like Simone Biles, she stepped out of the French Opens to prioritize her mental health, sparking debates about the topic within the sports realm.
Naomi has partnered with platforms, such as Modern Health, to destigmatize mental illness.
7. Raven Saunders
The shot put Olympian made it public that she had, at a point in life, struggled with depression. After getting help, Raven prioritized her mental health and became vocal about the topic, appearing in films such as the Out of The Dark docu-series that feature personal stories of influential youths like her who advocate for mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Among Athletes
With many athletes struggling with a range of psychological issues, including stress, depression, and anxiety, there is an increasing need to address the issue. This can be done by having conversations about mental health. These seven Black athletes are doing a great job triggering conversations on mental health and making them more prevalent among sportspeople.