MANY ELITE ATHLETES HAVE DEMANDED THAT THEIR MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED AND SUPPORTED JUST AS SERIOUSLY AS THEIR PHYSICAL HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE ABILITIES BY THEIR SPORT’S NATIONAL GOVERNING BODIES AND THE UNITED STATES OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE. TO DATE, MANY ATHLETES FEEL THAT THEY HAVE HAD TO TAKE ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CARING FOR THEIR MENTAL HEALTH IN SECRET AND ISOLATION, ONLY LEADING TO A COMPOUNDING OF THE PROBLEM.
Deja Young, Paralympic Gold Medalist in Track and Field and current 2021 Paralympic Hopeful At the age of 24, Deja is already a two-time gold medal track & field Paralympic athlete, in the 100m and 200m events. Deja was born with a brachial plexus injury that caused nerve damage and limited mobility to her right shoulder. She began her competitive running career in high school. She has been vocal about her struggles with mental health and a previous suicide attempt. She is an advocate for herself and others. Deja is training to qualify for her place in the 2021 Summer Games.
Steve Mesler, Olympic Gold Medalist in Bobsled, CEO of Classroom Champions, USOPC Board of Directors Not ready to give up competition and athletics after college, Steve Mesler found bobsledding on the internet and began the sport in 2001. Steve is a three-time Olympian, World Champion, and Olympic Gold Medalist in 4-man bobsled. After retiring from sport, he co-founded Classroom Champions, a non-profit organization that shares the Olympic ideals with young students across the continent emphasizing social and emotional learning and Steve also sits on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Steve has lost teammates to suicide and has experienced mental health setbacks in his own life. He is active in working to better his sport and push the conversation around brain health.
Jessica Bartley, Director of Mental Health Services, USOPC Jessica joined the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) as the first Director of Mental Health Services in October 2020. In her role, she directs the clinical pathways for mental health assessment, referral, treatment, and management. As part of the sports medicine team, Jess collaborates closely with the USOPC's sport psychology team, internal mental health working group, and external mental health task force as she leads the development of comprehensive mental health services for Team USA athletes and staff.
Troy Taylor, High-Performance Director, US Ski & Snowboard Troy is an internationally renowned sports leader, with extensive experience developing and leading world-class, multi-disciplinary teams with track record of driving innovation and cutting-edge practices across multiple sports and countries. Troy joined Team USA as the high-performance director for the US Ski and Snowboard Association in 2015. During September’s Suicide Prevention Month in 2020, USSA embedded QPR training into the core of their organization and are working to expand mental health into the culture across the organization.
Shannon Decker, Executive Director, The Speedy Foundation, Advisor to USOPC’s External Mental Health Task Force Shannon co-founded The Speedy Foundation in 2011, following the loss of her cousin, Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, to suicide. Speedy was a 3-time Olympian, World Champion, and Olympic Silver Medalist in Freestyle Aerial Skiing. Shannon holds a master’s degree in educational leadership with a background in public and private education and school leadership. She currently facilitates gatekeeper trainings, collaborates and advises for a variety of organizations, and generally works to further the foundation’s mission of promoting mental health education and advocating for suicide prevention.