Strangest Wins: Olympic heroes turn towards mental health

Written by Staff Writer

Between three and six million people in the US have post-traumatic stress disorder. Only two percent of this severely affect their daily activities, with most returning to normalcy after the initial shock.

But the repercussions of PTSD can be longer lasting for people who suffer from depression or other mental health conditions.

“The burden of mental health disorders are much higher than previously thought — in fact, they cause 6.3 percent of all deaths,” said Naomi Bracken, founder of the Strangest Wins foundation which started working with elite athletes to help them deal with mental health in the run-up to the Olympics in 2016.

The foundation identifies six to eight young athletes each year, offering ‘healthy living advice’ and health and wellness assessments, including the latest mental health guidelines.

“All of us are often thought of as functional on the outside, but inside we’re trying to figure out who we are. Unfortunately, the stakes of being too open about mental health issues are that we lose things like people that see us and love us,” Bracken said.

New foundation plan

The foundation aims to help elite athletes cultivate their personal mental health through a number of offerings including physical training, expert mental health advice and counseling.

And to mark this year’s World Mental Health Day on June 10, a handful of its clients will donate their $50,000 prize money to it.

“By backing someone and helping them, we’re saying to them, ‘You’re perfect because we believe in you,'” Bracken said.

“Before, athletes didn’t always see these positive things. They just didn’t recognize them. It’s really important to support the important work being done here and share these stories in a light that can change the world.”

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