Athlete Mental Health & Eating Disorders - a news & discussion thread

Artistic Skaters

Drawing Figures
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This article is about former Canadian skater Liam Dougherty. He struggled with PTSD for many years after skating and is now running for public office:
Dougherty, a Prince Albert born Canadian Junior Figure Skating Champion who competed nationally and internationally as an ice dancer, left the sport in 2007 citing mental health concerns. He said the experience left him traumatized and suicidal, but after seeking treatment he's now looking to get into municipal politics.

Dougherty formally announced his plans to run for Prince Albert's vacant Ward 7 seat on September 8. He said the rigid and inflexible world of figure skating helped prepare him for the challenges of being an elected official, while his experience with mental illness helped him identify with those who are less fortunate.
 

Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
Elliana Pogrebinsky has launched her own website that includes a blog and resources section: https://womeninathletics.com/

Elliana's latest conversation is with Rachael Flatt - "Currently she is in her third year of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at UNC chapel hill. Topics include the importance of continuing education, the importance of asking for help, competitive teammates, and what is being done to help Figure Skaters."

Last week's chat was with "former Team USA Ice Dancer and Amber Leigh Anderson, a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor trained in sensorimotor psychotherapy who specializes in trauma, eating disorders, anxiety, and depression."
 

B.Cooper

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515
The USOPC announcement from yesterday....Dr Jessica Bartley, as Director of Mental Health Services


Bartley will be responsible for the development and implementation of mental health services and programming for Team USA.

"The hiring of Bartley is the latest step in the USOPC's efforts to deliver on its commitment to enhance wellness resources to Team USA athletes. In April, the USOPC created the Mental Health Taskforce, which works to develop best practices, resources and action plans to support the mental health needs of Team USA athletes and those who support them, both on and off the field of play. Following the formation of the Taskforce, three independent mental health officers joined the USOPC in July to expand mental health offerings for the U.S. athlete community. Finally, the creation of the Mental Health Fund took place in September, which will supplement important funding for USOPC mental health through a $1.5 million donation to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation from donors Yucca and Gary Rieschel. More details on the USOPC’s mental health offerings and resources can be found at TeamUSA.org/MentalHealth."
 

B.Cooper

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515
For those of you who are interested, today's session at the USOPC Assembly:

Race, Sport & Social Change: Learning with Team USA
Thursday, Oct. 1 – 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. MT

For decades, athletes have used the power of their platform to point a spotlight on injustices in American society. Specifically, Black Olympic and Paralympic athletes and athletes of color have used their achievements on the field of play to spark conversations about addressing systemic racism and creating a more equitable society for all. Utilizing leadership from Team USA athletes, the newly formed Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice and the Team USA Mental Health Taskforce, “Race, Sport & Social Change: Learning with Team USA” will explore how we can use our personal platforms to inspire social change.

The event features Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel; Dr. Judi Brown Clarke, Olympic silver medalist and vice president of equity & inclusion and chief diversity officer at Stony Brook University; and Dr. Kensa Gunter, Certified Mental Performance Consultant and president-elect of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Moderated by Ahmed Fareed, NBC Sports.

To attend, please add to your calendar and access link via this link at the time of the event with the passcode 512639.
 

Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
Rachael Flatt tweeted this yesterday:
"And we’re off! Help us unlock the genetic code for eating disorders. If you have had an eating disorder at any time in your life, join the EDGI research study @uncceed @UNC & become one of 100,000 participants worldwide."
For more info: https://edgi.org/

We are excited to announce the launch of the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI), a global initiative to discover the genes that cause anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Researchers in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark will collect clinical information and saliva samples from over 16,000 people with a history of eating disorders and individuals without an eating disorder. The goal of the research study is to transform our knowledge about the causes of eating disorders to work toward greater understanding and ultimately a cure.
UNC is mapping the genetics of eating disorders to develop better treatments: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article246417945.html
Excerpts:
“We are clearly in the midst of a mental health p*ndemic,” Bulik said. “The things (participants) talked about most was the lack of structure in their days ... (and) a lack of social support. Eating disorders thrive in isolation.”
While there have been numerous psychiatric studies of eating disorders, the biologic underpinnings of the illness are still relatively unknown, and there are no medications to treat eating disorders
“Part of that is because we haven’t understood the biology of eating disorders,” she said.
By expanding the research to include other eating disorders, EDGI could determine if certain genetics predispose someone to multiple illnesses, or whether they all have unique causes.
“My gut says and preliminary information shows that there might be some shared genetic factors across all three disorders, but also unique genetic factors associated with them that decides the path (of treatment) you go down,” she said. “There is not a clear demarcation between these disorders. People will toggle back and forth between anorexia and bulimia. They are not mutually exclusive.”
 
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Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
Elliana Pogrebinsky's latest conversation with Polina Edmunds:
...Polina is a longtime close friend of mine so we decided to change things up, having a nice chat outdoors and baking some pumpkin truffles. Topics include the over emphasis of technique in singles skating, pushing the body too far too soon, pre-puberty skating, and a special emphasis on birth control.
Many of Polina Edmunds' podcast episodes are relevant to this thread:
 

Garden Kitty

Tranquillo
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29,177
TSN has a show tomorrow called Disorder about eating disorders in athletes. Based on the trailer (and tweets from Kristen and Rachael Flatt) it appears Kristen Moore-Towers is one of the athletes sharing their stories


Kristen's tweet:

My main goal as I near the end of my career, is to be somebody that my teenage self may have needed. I’m grateful for this platform to start a conversation about something that has taken up so much space in my life. Thank you
@TSN_Sports
and
@T_BritnellTSN
 

honey

Well-Known Member
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1,671
The piece ran tonight during sports centre on TSN. I’ll add some details below, so trigger warning for anyone sensitive to this.

Kirsten says she had bulimia, at its worst allowing herself to only keep one apple a day. She talked about how it was a superior who told her “if she was really trying, she’s stick her finger down her throat”. She says with the help of a psychologist she has recovered. Julie Marcotte supported her through the journey.

Rachael Flatt was involved in the piece, both talking about her skating experiences and from the perspective of her work now.

It’s a tough watch, hearing these stories (there was also a runner featured). I don’t really have too many other thoughts on it though. There was some focus on things being done now to improve things from the top down, but it all felt a little surface level. I suppose there’s only so much one can put in a fifteen minute segment. It’s good that there is more openness now about some of the things that have to change, but it’s clear so much more needs to be done.
 

Garden Kitty

Tranquillo
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29,177
Thanks for some of the descriptions. While this program may not change some of the influences, perhaps some of the young people who look up to these athletes will be assured that even successful people who look like they "have it all" can still have issues. If the show encourages anyone to seek help, or lets them know they're not alone, it's a good thing.
 

honey

Well-Known Member
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1,671
Thanks for some of the descriptions. While this program may not change some of the influences, perhaps some of the young people who look up to these athletes will be assured that even successful people who look like they "have it all" can still have issues. If the show encourages anyone to seek help, or lets them know they're not alone, it's a good thing.
Absolutely! I didn’t mean to discredit the benefits of pieces like this at all.
 

Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
TSN's 12-minute original feature titled DISORDER can be watched here with Kirsten Moore-Towers, Rachael Flatt & runner Yuki Hebner (Julie Marcotte also appears):

Kirsten also participated in a very good conversation afterwards on FB: https://www.facebook.com/178835736054/videos/1340555496114995
 
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Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
Gracie Gold, DeMar DeRozan, and Molly Seidel appeared on Sarah Spain's "That's What She Said" podcast discussing mental health.
Thanks for the heads up, @kwanfan1818! Link to listen:

DeMar DeRozan, Gracie Gold, and Molly Seidel: 11/10/20
Sarah talks about mental health in sports with NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan, US Olympic medal winning figure skater Gracie Gold, and professional long distance runner Molly Seidel. They discuss when they came to grips with their struggles, what their low points were, why sweeping things under the rug is not a solution, and why communicating their feelings and having a strong support network is so vital.
 

B.Cooper

Well-Known Member
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515
Toronto's TSN1050 Radio's "The Lunch" with Andi Petrillo had a conversation discussing eating disorders in elite athletes on Wednesday, November 25th with with Kirsten Moore-Towers and Rachael Flatt as well as MLB player Mike Marjama.
Playback of the discussion:
 

Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
Polina Edmunds' latest podcast episode delves into the topic of eating disorders after the 18 minute 15 second mark:
In this episode I speak with Rachael Flatt about eating disorders in our sport, with advice on what skaters, parents, and coaches can do for resources. We also talk about [first 18 mins.] her Olympic experiences and balancing school with skating!
 

Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
Lithuania's Aleksandra Golovkina's Instagram post today: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKzG0rxLEdm/
She is studying for her Sport, Exercise and Nutrition (BSc) at Northumbria University in England.

❗️EATING DISORDERS❗
I have been messaging skaters privately, inviting to participate in a study for my university final year dissertation, which is about the risk factors for the development of eating disorders among female figure skaters ⛸ I am currently trying to recruit as many skaters from different countries (current and former, 18 y. and older). Participants are only required to complete an anonymous online survey (5-10 min). 😊👌🏼
I received so many messages with the support, saying that this topic is super important and needs to be discussed much more, so I thought that this post could reach even more skaters who are interested in this topic. I am so grateful to everyone who has completed the survey ♥️ and I didn’t expect that so many of you will support me and agree to participate, it's over 100 skaters from 20 different countries already! ☺️🙌🏼🙏🏼
Unfortunately, eating disorders are so common in skating at the moment... I think this study could be helpful, and the data provided by each participant will be very valuable! If you would also like to participate, please message me and I will send a link to the survey! ✔️😊
 

B.Cooper

Well-Known Member
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515
Peggy Shin, who is a writer for TeamUSA, wrote this article on body image and eating disorders in discussion with Olympians Jessie Diggins (X-country skier) and Rachael Flatt, and OLY hopeful Hannah Halvorsen (also X-country skier)

Jessie Diggins bio: https://usskiandsnowboard.org/athletes/jessie-diggins

Hannah Halvorsen bio: https://usskiandsnowboard.org/athletes/hannah-halvorsen

a small portion of the article....its just not figure skaters :-(

"After Jessie Diggins won an Olympic gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 —America’s first Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing—she went public with the fact that she had an eating disorder.

In her book Brave Enough, she describes in detail her downward spiral into bulimia during her senior year in high school, then her recovery, thanks to the WithAll Foundation (formerly the Emily Program).

She was “preloaded with red flags” to develop an eating disorder, she said. Not only is she a talented endurance athlete, but she is also a Type A personality who is super competitive.

As a promising teen coming up through the ranks, Diggins remembers thinking, “If I feel like changing my body will help me win, I guess I have to do that.”




Kirsten Moore-Towers even commented on the importance of the discussion:

"I screenshotted quotes in this article by @RachaelFlatt and @jessdiggs
several times because there are so many important pieces within it. It’s a super insightful read for anyone, but especially parents and coaches of athletes at all levels."

Glad Kirsten pointed out that coaches and parents should read the article.
 

Sylvia

Rooting for underdogs!
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71,009
U.S. ice dancer & current professional skater Joe Johnson shared this today on his Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CONtaWxL7eG/

TW: eating disorder

I dealt with an eating disorder for almost a decade.

It’s something I have written, and deleted, and written, and deleted again. I fluctuate between “it’s nobody’s business” and “I would have peace if I spoke about it” constantly. I do know, at the very least, that I do not want to hash out the specifics. What I want to say is this: it did not help me. It did not make me better. It did not make me love myself, or my body. It does not have to be obvious to be real. And I would have been a better athlete, and far more importantly, a happier person, without it. It’s taken a while, but I look at my body now with so much more fondness, and gratitude, than I ever thought possible in my teens/early 20’s. And I have learned, above all, that discipline and deprivation are not synonymous. There is beauty in abundance, there is success in health. I hope we all find it.


ETA that his ice dance partner, Karina Manta, later re-shared his post in her IG story with the caption: "Proud of you, always. This will only make space for other skaters, particularly men, who have not felt safe sharing their realities yet."
 
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Sylvia

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71,009
I've started a new GSD thread for the PRESSION ("Pressure") French-Canadian documentary that was released a few days ago:
https://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/th...euf-dubé-sawyer-séguin-bilodeau-ruest.108282/

Here's a Jessica Dubé article that's linked in that thread:
Machine translated excerpts:
In 2013, to everyone's surprise, Jessica Dubé announced her retirement from figure skating, claiming a persistent injury. In reality, she was mostly stuck in a spiral of which she could not see the end: bulimia.
“Eight years ago, I never said the real reason for stopping skating,” Jessica admits. However, there are so many skaters who have had this disorder [...] A chance that we no longer have the nerve to talk [about eating disorders] today. "
...
Today, she agrees to speak out in order to break taboos, break down prejudices and instill healthy values in the new generation.
After her first Olympic Games in Turin, she developed an eating disorder: bulimia.
Her weight is then an obsession and she makes herself vomit before the competitions.
“I told myself that if I was still on my period, I shouldn't be that sick. I told myself that I could still push, ”she says.
She tried to hide her bulimia for several years, but her ex-boyfriend had noticed her. He wanted her to make it out at all costs.
It is during their breakup that he puts her in front of an ultimatum: she has to talk to someone else, no matter who, or Jessica's mother will know.
“I was confused and couldn't tell my mom. I was incapable. I then spoke to a good friend who is a coach. I told her: “I've been sick for four or five years”, and that's when she helped me, ”says the skater.
“At first I didn't agree to push myself, but today if I saw this guy again I would say thank you. He saved my life. I don't know what would have happened.”
For a rare time, Jessica took a break from figure skating in order to recover, mentally and physically.
"Now I'm able to say that I had a great career and that I'm proud of it, but it really took me a long time to say that."
She now teaches younger skaters.
 

B.Cooper

Well-Known Member
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515
The USOPC kicks off mental health awareness month with the announcement of some of the initiatives from the mental health task force: creation of mental health provider registry and mental health support line, available to all TeamUSA athletes.


“The launch of these mental health initiatives demonstrates the commitment the USOPC has in providing easily accessible support and resources to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes across the globe,” said Dr. Jessica Bartley, USOPC mental health services director. “The development and launch of these resources took an immense amount of collaboration and personalization so that each Team USA athlete is able to easily utilize these resources.”

The mental health registry allows Olympic and Paralympic athletes the option to search for licensed mental health providers located across the country that can provide both in-person services as well as telehealth appointments. The providers housed in the registry are experienced, licensed mental health providers who have completed a background screening, SafeSport training and anti-doping training. Mental health providers in the registry include social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists who all have experience working with elite athletes. Team USA athletes can select their preferred provider on the registry, connect with them directly and schedule an appointment tailored to their specific needs.

The USOPC has also launched a confidential support line available to Team USA athletes, domestically and internationally, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Team USA athletes have immediate access to a licensed mental health provider who can assist in the management of mental health crises or provide resources related to mental health and wellness anywhere in the world.
 

B.Cooper

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515
"Behind the Podium: A Mental Health Conversation with Mirai Nagasu"

"National Champion and two-time Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu sat down with Dr. Mai Uchida, Director of the MGH Child Depression Program, to talk about her mental health experiences, her struggles, and her resilience during her competitive career."​



Five episodes posted on YouTube.

Live discussion this Saturday, in conjunction of AAPI Heritage and Mental Health Awareness month, live event with Mirai Nagasu this Saturday, 5/22, at 7:30 EDP.

Registration:
 

B.Cooper

Well-Known Member
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515
Dr Mark Halstead, a sports medicine physician, and the director of Washington University (St Louis) Sports Concussion Clinic & Young Athlete Center, https://www.stlouischildrens.org/conditions-treatments/young-athlete-center

....... hosted a podcast with Rachael Flatt in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness month They discussed injuries (including Flatt's concussions during her skating career), mental health, retirement as an elite athlete, and her path in academics at Stanford and as a PhD candidate in the clinical psych program at the med school at the University of North Carolina.

Near the conclusion of the podcast....question from Dr Halstead: What would be a good message to young skaters?

Flatt quotes Ruth Bader Ginsberg: "In a good marriage it is good to be a little deaf sometimes." She frames this in that not all "advice" the athlete receives is always helpful. Some is well meaning and helpful, some "advice" should be taken a grain of salt. .... but it is also important to have open and frank discussions about the health and well being of the athlete with their trusted core support team. Flatt looks back on advice she had received at various points in her career from some coaches and support team members, especially when those team members were very invested in her success, and with hindsight, she wishes she had not listened to those folks. This was a theme that was discussed by Mirai Nagasu and Dr Uchida in the podcasts listed above, in that Mirai expressed similar thoughts.....with some of her team members more invested in her success on the ice, rather than her health and well being. Common theme it seems in skating.

 

puglover

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2,436
As much as I applaud this seemingly new found openness around sensitive topics like eating disorders and sport, in particular, skating, I remain unconvinced it will make much difference, at least at the elite levels. Now, more than ever, the ideal body type for being competitive internationally for ladies is a very slim, tiny body. Very few post pubescent skaters have any chance at a medal, regardless of the many other areas of skating they are superior at. Coaches, support team members and federations understanding the risks they can place skaters in with their attitudes and advice seems like a very positive first step though.
 

MacMadame

Doing all the things
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49,184
Maybe being open about it will cause skaters who know they won't have that body type as an adult to pick more recreational paths earlier on and not get caught up in "my kid might be an OGM and score big time!" I think that having realistic ideas of what paths are open to you and how far most kids get cuts down a lot of the craziness. The kids I know who enjoy their time in skating and have non-Crazy Skater Parents are the ones who are thrilled if their kid even gets to Sectionals and are in it more for the experience. And if their kids actually get farther, it's just the cherry on top.
 

Aussie Willy

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Maybe being open about it will cause skaters who know they won't have that body type as an adult to pick more recreational paths earlier on and not get caught up in "my kid might be an OGM and score big time!" I think that having realistic ideas of what paths are open to you and how far most kids get cuts down a lot of the craziness. The kids I know who enjoy their time in skating and have non-Crazy Skater Parents are the ones who are thrilled if their kid even gets to Sectionals and are in it more for the experience. And if their kids actually get farther, it's just the cherry on top.
I agree. Let the skaters do what they enjoy. If the skater is really determined they will do it no matter what. They don't need to be pushed.

Over my years as an adult skater I have seen everything, from the parents who push their kids to the point of abuse, to the coaches who stress their skaters out no end, to even adult skaters who get accused by a coach of being disloyal because they had a lesson with someone else while that coach was away on holidays.

Years ago I told a parent who had been making her child practice over and over again that her kid should not be crying (it was in a public session on the weekend of a comp). As they got off the ice I glared at the parent. The parent justified it as the kid was being hard on herself. Told the parent I didn't buy it.
 

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