Shifting Sports Culture
Pirate Athletes Work to Destigmatize Mental Health
Kylee Walker '23 remembers feeling pressure to appear mentally tough as a triple-sport varsity athlete in high school. Privately, Walker was struggling with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.
"I would have to pretend that I was OK at my practices or games when all I wanted to do was focus on my mental health," Walker says. "When I came to college, I realized I am not alone in this."
Now a lacrosse captain and a psychology major at Whitworth, Walker is among a number of Pirate student-athletes who are working to eliminate the stigma of mental health in sports. The pressure within sports culture to appear mentally tough often prevents athletes from discussing or seeking help for mental health concerns.
Two seasons ago, Walker initiated an annual "Mental Health Matters Week" for the lacrosse team that included a daily discussion in the locker room.
"I shared about my mental health journey and how it doesn't define me but is a crucial part of my life that I still deal with every day," Walker says. "It led to a really good week of sharing, listening and being vulnerable"