World Champion Boxer Marlen Esparza Talks Destigmatizing Mental Health in the Latinx Community

Seeking help for mental illness remains stigmatized in the Latinx community and part of the work that needs to happen to dismantle that is actually talking about mental health

Destigmatize Mental Health L'Attitude

Photo courtesy of Nike

Seeking help for mental illness remains stigmatized in the Latinx community and part of the work that needs to happen to dismantle that is actually talking about mental health. During the panel discussion, “Wellness from Within,” for the L’Attitude 4-day business conference that started Sept. 29, Olympic Medalist and World Champion Boxer, Marlen Esparza shined a light on the importance of taking care of one’s mental health.  Esparza was born and raised in Houston, Texas with Mexican roots and she became the first American woman boxer to ever compete in the Olympics in the first year that women’s boxing was an Olympic event. Achieving such a magnitude of success no doubt has taken its toll on the mental health of the 32-year-old athlete and she took the opportunity to talk openly about it.

“As an athlete myself and as a Latina, I know firsthand how important mental health is and how seldom it is openly discussed. I am proud to be part of bringing this conversation to L’Attitude to further normalize the topic and inspire this next generation that it’s okay to ask for help,” she said.

Nike VP of North America Communications, Vanessa Garcia-Brito moderated the candid conversation with   Esparza, and Dr. Shairi Turner, Chief Medical Officer at Crisis Text Line. In addition to discussing their personal mental health journeys, they also discussed how Latinx executives can prioritize holistic wellness within their organizations. In 2018, 56.8 percent of Latinx young adults 18-25 and 39.6 percent of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did NOT receive treatment, according to Mental Health America. By making wellness a priority in the workplace, it’s not only opening up important discussions but it’s also providing access to resources.

“Stigma, access to care and language barriers are just a few of the reasons for this disparity in mental health care. In order to increase this percentage, it’s important to reach out for help if you need it,” Turner said. Crisis Text Line is a 24/7 free service where people can text with a counselor and on Oct.15 they launched in Spanish.

Turner discussed the notion of how ‘asking for help,” looks different for everyone. That can include asking someone to ‘just talk,’ asking for someone to stay with you, asking for someone you trust to do something with you, and asking for scheduled check-ins with people you feel comfortable talking to.

“We’re committed to talking about the importance of mental health and wellness, especially within the Latino community. It’s a critical conversation for us to be having right now and it is essential that we embed these conversations into our everyday life. For us, it’s a long-term commitment because we know mental health has no off-season,” Garcia-Brito said.

Garza, who wanted to be a boxer since she was 17, won a bronze medal in the women’s flyweight division at the 2012 Olympics in London. She made headlines in 2019 when she returned to the ring three months after giving birth but during the panel she opened up about the importance of self-care. Oftentimes with public figures we praise them for their seemingly extraordinary skills so to see someone like Esparza share how she couldn’t do without caring for her mental health normalizes the need for prioritizing it.

“Whether you’re an elite athlete or a corporate executive, we all feel incredible pressure to perform our best and meet really high standards. For me, success wouldn’t be possible without a focus on my holistic health, so remembering to pause and take time for yourself and mental well-being is critical.”

If you’re in an type of crisis, text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor through Crisis Text Line

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Latina athlete Latinas in sports Latinx mental health marlen esparza Mental Health mental illness POC and mental health
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