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Olympians Are Humans, Too!

Oh, the Summer Olympics. Personally, my favorite of all the major sporting events as I find the skills these athletes have are fascinating!  The endurance and athleticism they possess to be on top of their game is outstanding! Since these athletes almost appear to be superhuman at times, it is VERY easy for us to forget that at the end of the competition, they are just normal, everyday people like all of us.  This year, the Olympics have reminded us of this with a few athletes pulling out of competitions because of mental health concerns.  Now, some people may have expressed disappointment or disbelief that these coveted athletes have stepped away from a once in a lifetime opportunity; however, I truly have a new respect for these athletes that I won’t ever forget.

They showed us that Mental Health effects everyone and they were not afraid to hide it.

“But Katrina, they are major idols to so many! How could they possible struggle with Mental Health?

Let me explain…

Mental health does NOT discriminate. Many of the athletes in competition do not nor have ever led the “typical” lifestyle as we know it.  Many (if not all) of these athletes practice every single day for several hours a day. Some athletes give up their social life for the gym. Some athletes gave up their childhood to have more practice time. Some of these families go in debt and  sell their homes to support their athlete’s passion.  Many athletes will move across the country to be with a coach.  Even more will leave their families entirely and stay with a coach or a sponsor family while they train.  Now, one may say this is their choice and this point is debatable depending on the athlete, but could you imagine the amount of pressure on someone knowing how much was given up for them to reach their Olympic Dream? What about the physical toll this takes on someone’s body? I don’t know about you, but when I pull a muscle or sprain something, I take time to heal.  Many times, these athletes can’t, or it’ll slow their progress for their next big competition. And we can’t forget the disappointment the fans would have if their beloved athlete took time away. The amount of pressure both physically and mentally is huge!

Sometimes I encourage everyone to think about the situation and put themselves in it. Or better yet, watch some of the documentaries on some of the athlete’s journey to these coveted positions.   Many of the athletes admit the road to success was paved with potholes, construction, hailstorms, and gravel.   What is different about this year’s Olympics is that athletes are beginning to open up about the impact this journey has had on their overall mental health and this my friends, marks a new gold medal.  These athletes deserve the Gold Medal in overcoming the Stigma of Mental Health and I truly believe there is no medal greater than that. Think about it. I know I have, and I admire their strength now more than ever.

Katrina Norris

Clinical Director

Springville Counseling Center

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