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Finding a Balance with Sports and Mental Health

Recently The Kim Foundation formed a partnership with Cheer Athletics, one of the largest cheerleading gyms in the country. I went to Denver to speak at their annual owners’ and coaches’ meeting to kick off a five-part mental health and suicide prevention series. I am so proud of such a prominent gym for prioritizing mental health and suicide prevention for not only their athletes, but their staff as well.

The partnership allows The Kim Foundation to expand into an audience comprised of athletes, coaches and staff who are all in desperate need of mental health services due to the expectations, competitive nature, and social impacts of their sport, as well as so many other athletes in all types of sports.

An obvious point in the media this week is the most recent athlete who has come out struggling with her mental health, Olympian Simone Biles. While details are still coming out surrounding this situation, I think it is yet another example of an athlete whose identity has been entirely defined by her sport, and her mental health and wellness has likely not been prioritized through the years. Bearing the weight of a country’s winning expectations is too much for one person, and so it isn’t surprising that it all became too much for her on top of other mental health concerns she could have been experiencing. Again, details are still coming out, but we do hope that Simone Biles is able to get the support that she needs and that athletics in general very soon starts supporting athletes in their whole health – physical and mental – as they need to better perform through not only their sport of choice, but successfully in their life overall.

Our team found this video that highlights mental health of professional athletes and how sports as a whole needs to do a better job of prioritizing the mental health of athletes. I think this video speaks volumes to the need for stronger mental health care for athletes – as well as everyone. During the Olympics, and as the United States athletes are representing our country after a trying year for all of us, we felt it was important to highlight the importance of mental health in sports. We thank them for their commitment to our country and for all of their hard work and dedication to their sport.

We are truly excited to embark in this partnership with Cheer Athletics and the opportunities this will provide The Kim Foundation and Cheer Athletics to pave the way for other sports. Congratulations to Cheer Athletics on taking the lead on this; we can’t wait to see where this goes!

Julia Hebenstreit, The Kim Foundation

Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation

Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.