U.S. Ski & Snowboard Increases Efforts to Connect Athletes with Mental Health Resources
In partnership with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), U.S. Ski & Snowboard is working to combat mental health issues prevalent in elite sport. Both organizations are taking a three-step approach to create awareness, remove stigma, and effectively communicate the resources available. The mental health concerns surrounding athletics have heightened following the release of Podium Pictures’ HBO film, Weight of Gold, which showcases the highs and lows of elite athletes’ mental health. Director Brett Rapkin, explained, “I started researching post-Olympic depression and was blown away when I discovered how common it was. My intention was to talk about this rollercoaster and the struggles faced by athletes. The reaction was incredibly powerful and served as an inspiration to me to do more of this kind of work.”
In addition to the complimentary Weight of Gold viewing access provided to all U.S. Ski & Snowboard national team athletes by Podium Pictures and HBO, U.S. Ski & Snowboard held a panel webinar on Dec. 30 in collaboration with the USOPC, Podium Pictures, and the Speedy Foundation. The panel discussed the film and provided resources for athletes seeking help. One of the panel members, Dr. Alex Cohen, Senior Sport Psychologist at the USOPC, who works closely with U.S. Ski & Snowboard out of the USANA Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah shared, “There is no wrong door to go through, and there should not be a dozen steps to get the resources needed. We are more than happy to help athletes navigate these resources.” Along with sharing resources, the panel provided an honest discussion on the topic with the hopes of decreasing some of the stigma surrounding mental health.
Recent efforts of U.S. Ski & Snowboard include requiring Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) Training for all staff members. QPR Training teaches three simple steps to help save a person from committing suicide. In addition to having all staff trained on this topic, U.S. Ski & Snowboard plans to require QPR training of all athletes prior to the start of competition next year. The USOPC has also taken strides to combat mental health issues with the hiring of Dr. Jessica Bartley as its Director of Mental Health Services. Dr. Bartley now serves as both an advocate and a resource for any athlete struggling with mental health. “I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be a resource for athletes, and it is my mission to build an infrastructure that athletes can access at all times.”
Although both organizations are taking steps to improve mental health resources, there is still more to be done. “Raising awareness, decreasing stigma and providing best practice mental health resources to U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes is a top priority,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Director of High Performance and Co-Chair of its Mental Health Committee,Troy Taylor. “Research shows that more than 35% of professional athletes suffer from a mental health crisis, so it is imperative that we create an environment where we can talk about mental health openly, honestly and ensure everyone gets the support they need, when they need it.” Over the coming months, U.S. Ski & Snowboard plans to further improve the organization’s understanding of the main obstacles for athletes and create feasible solutions to support athletes in the best ways possible.
Mental Health Resources
United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee: www.teamusa.org/mentalhealth
The Speedy Foundation: https://www.thespeedyfoundation.org
Michael Phelps Foundation: https://michaelphelpsfoundation.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org
Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org
Mental Health First Aid: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org
If you or someone you know is experiencing an urgent mental health issue, we encourage you to text HOME to 741741, or call (800) 273-8255 to speak to a mental health professional. In the process of helping yourself, you may be inspiring courage in others to seek help as well.
If you are a U.S. Ski & Snowboard athlete, member, or staff, and feel you need support or would like to talk, don’t hesitate to reach out to USOPC Sr. Sport Psychologist Alexander Cohen or USOPC Director, Mental Health Services Jessica Bartley as resources.
Alexander Cohen, Ph.D., CMPC
Sr. Sport Psychologist
United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee
(M) +1 719-216-6376
Jessica Bartley, Ph.D., CMPC
Director, Mental Health Services
United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee
(o) +1 719-866-2125