With a rise in awareness for mental health, speakers took to the stage at Belmont with a message.
You’re not alone.
Sunday, the American Psychological Association brought together professional athletes, world-class entertainers and mental health professionals to The Fisher Center of the Performing Arts for Where We Play: Nashville, an event that addressed the mental health challenges faced by athletes and performers alike.
To kick off Sunday’s discussion panels, Dr. Altha Stewart, Former APA President, hosted world-champion swimmers Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt to talk about their experiences.
Following this discussion, musical performances and chats with songwriters Blessing Offor, Britt Nicole and Drew Baldridge took place as the artists encouraged attendees to reach out to their loved ones when they are struggling.
“You don’t ever have to be or pretend or act like you are happy if you're not happy. It’s always better to speak your feelings to friends, to anybody around you. It’s a lot of weight to pretend to feel how you feel and it’s not worth it and does not lead to authenticity and it doesn’t lead to anything good,” Offor said, “If that’s anything you’re dealing with, I encourage you to put that down and be yourself all the time.”
In the sports world, athletes can face issues such as experiencing burnout, stress, substance use, negative self-talk, the pressure of being on social media and more.
World Series MVP Ben Zobrist hosted multiple panels where he spoke to former NFL players Kevin Dyson and Eric Decker and current MLB player Tony Kemp about how they have persevered through their experiences.
Some of the issues discussed were sports injury and mental recovery, overcoming imposter syndrome, athletic longevity and finding purpose outside of sports.
“As an athlete, you create this stigma that everything’s fine, especially in football. I think through the eight years in the NFL and my collegiate career I got to learn a lot about what I thought success was, what I thought happiness looked like and after sports it's been a wonderful journey of discovering myself again.” Decker said.
Two of Belmont’s student-athletes then joined Zobrist onstage.
Belmont baseball player Sam Kirkpatrick shared his journey as an athlete who overcame an injury and dealt with imposter syndrome.
“Imposter Syndrome is a concept that describes individuals who are marked by the inability to perceive their own accomplishments, and instead they believe their success to be as a result of luck or timing. They try to convince other people that they are better than they perceive themselves to be,” Kirkpatrick said, “Someone needs to just be that first person to go and to open the door for others to walk through who might feel scared or hesitant to admit that there are things in life that are tough, and that they can’t accomplish to do on their own.”
Grace Litzinger, a long-distance runner, highlighted how Belmont has allowed her to balance school and athletics.
She credited Belmont for creating an environment where this is possible and talked about how creating personal connections has helped her to find balance.
“They know my name, they know what I’m up to, they know where I’m racing and check up with me after the race. I’ve really been blessed with professors who care about athletics and vice versa. I love when my coaches talk to me about essays that I have coming up, and the books that I’m reading. It’s really sweet to be able to balance those, and I think you’re only capable of doing that whenever you have a personal connection with the people on all of your teams,” Litzinger said.
To conclude the event, mental health professionals summarized the challenges and problems discussed throughout the day and provided resources accessible in and around Nashville.
“We are human beings; we are not human doings.” said Dr. Julie Sutcliffe, Vanderbilt University Sports & Performance Psychologist.
This article was written by Zoë Prochko