The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee has formed a Mental Health Task Force to support Team USA athletes to address mental health concerns while promoting sustained well-being during their careers.
The task force, which will also be available to coaches, officials and administrators, is comprised of U.S. Olympians, Paralympians, coaches, medical and mental health professionals to support mental health needs of athletes and advise the staff who engage with them. The group was organized in February 2020 and meets on a monthly basis.
“We are acutely aware of the mental health concerns facing our athletes–heightened by the current environment in the Olympic and Paralympic community–and are fully dedicated to being an active leader in providing support and resources to help athletes navigate the pressures and at times, uncertainty, of their careers,” said Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, USOPC chief medical officer. “The goal of the task force is to ensure athletes and the staff who are entrusted with their care are well-informed and prepared to recognize and respond to individuals in need, both before and once mental health concerns arise.”
The 13-person group will also collaborate with an internal USOPC mental health working group, led by Finnoff and Bahati VanPelt, USOPC chief of athlete services, to promote a culture in which mental health support is encouraged. The USOPC will be activating mental health officers scheduled to support Team USA athletes at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games that were set to be held in Tokyo to lead discussions around mental health and wellness.
To help athletes and their immediate families cope with the impact of COVID-19, the USOPC has extended its ComPsych benefits program to athletes with access to phone counseling with certified professionals and other resources such as emotional and wellness support, financial and legal guidance.
The task force includes:
- Allison Brock, Olympian – equestrian
- Eileen Carey, director of U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing
- Shannon Decker, executive director and co-founder of The Speedy Foundation
- Rachael Flatt, Olympian – figure skating
- Kensa Gunter, Psy.D., CMPC psychologist and certified mental performance consultant for the USOPC’s Sport Psychology Registry
- Stanley Herring, MD., clinical professor in the departments of rehabilitation medicine, orthopedics, sports medicine and neurological surgery at the University of Washington
- Adam Krikorian, head coach of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team
- Chris Murphy, Paralympian – cycling
- Theresa Nguyen, chief program officer of Mental Health America
- William Parham, Ph.D., ABPP, professor in counseling and interim associate dean of faculty at Loyola Marymount University and director of the mental health and wellness program for the National Basketball Players Association
- Keenan Robinson, sports medicine and science director at USA Swimming
- Allison Schmitt, Olympian – swimming
- Victor Schwartz, MD., psychiatrist and chief medical officer of The Jed Foundation