Champion — a person who fights for a cause or on behalf of someone.
Champion — a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition.
Both definitions evoke an image of someone who defies all odds and prevails despite barriers and hardships.
Most recently, champion gymnast Simone Biles put her mental wellness first during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and publicly spoke out about her mental health. She is not the only athlete who recognizes the importance of mental health — other brave professional athletes who acknowledge their own mental wellness needs include swimmer Michael Phelps, tennis star Naomi Osaka, sprinter Lynna Irby, skier Nick Goepper, basketball player Kevin Love and many others.
As a clinical nurse and president and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association (FBHA), representing 69 community-based behavioral health providers in Florida, I thank anyone who has ever spoken out about his or her mental health.
In my line of work, I would like to offer up this definition of a “champion.” To me, a champion is someone who is honest, transparent, strong and bold because it takes tremendous courage, especially as a public figure, to stand up and speak out about troubling thoughts and feelings.
Because of superstars like Biles, the conversation on mental health and wellness is now on the national stage. But mental health issues and substance use disorders can affect anyone regardless of income, ethnicity, age or stardom.
It is about time that people know it is OK to not be OK and that there is help, and support if they need it. I want Floridians to know that speaking out and saying you need help takes courage.
You are not weak; you are strong, and help is available to you.
If you or a loved one is suffering from mental health issues or substance use disorders, there are trained mental health and substance use professionals in your area.
The Florida Behavioral Health Association’s member providers span from Pensacola to Key West offering top behavioral health treatment and services.
You can find our members’ crisis lines on the FBHA website at www.floridabha.org. In addition, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a behavioral health treatment services locator to confidentially and anonymously find help.
The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
Melanie Brown-Woofter is the president and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association, which is a statewide trade association representing over 69 community behavioral health providers.