Sky players aim to decongest mental health by sharing personal experiences through new initiative ‘The Net’

Anyone who takes a quick trip to Twitter and finds the handle of Azura Stevens will be linked to a page of enlightenment. The relationship he has established with his followers is not only rooted in his uplifting messages. Stevens connects so well with people because his 280 Twitter characters display honesty and vulnerability.

“I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone,” said Stevens, who had 11 points, six rebounds and five blocks. Sky’s 93-83 win over the Washington Mystics on Friday, “I can’t help everyone personally, but by being honest about a few things, it might inspire someone else.”

Stevens invests in her mental health – through therapy – just as she does with her physical well being. Communicating with someone who is listening to understand, not just to answer, has had a significant impact on him.

Last year, in what many would perceive as a milestone season in which the Sky won their first WNBA championship, Stevens was enduring a personal battle.

She recalled a struggle with her mental health last summer that diminished her gratitude for basketball to a point that worried her. A self-described private person, Stevens said most people had no idea what she was doing.

Experiencing one of life’s best moments as well as one of its toughest challenges provided an important accomplishment for Stevens: Everyone is dealing with something or the other.

“The more we talk about these things, the better people don’t feel excluded because of their mental health,” Stevens said.

Early in the season, Stevens told Sky that she wanted to be involved in the team’s mental-health initiative in some way. In partnership with OKRP and on the advice of psychiatrist and wellness coach Dr. Janet Taylor, Sky began planning a network of mental-health resources called “The Net” in April.

The Nets will officially launch in Sunday’s game against the Connecticut Sun and the game’s initiative and a . is highlighted by Website With mental-health support services and organizations for all to use. Stevens, Rebekah Gardner and Ruthie Hebbard contributed directly to the initiative by sharing personal stories, which began net’s website and is being displayed in a set of trading cards to be distributed on Sundays. The cards list tools for prioritizing each player’s mental health.

“Hopefully, there are younger athletes in the crowd who will see that we go through things as well, and feel more comfortable talking about their mental health,” Gardner said. “As humans, we need to recharge ourselves.”

For deteriorating mental health, a single initiative will not suffice.

Part of the WNBA’s efforts include leaguewide recommendations, with all 12 teams having a mental-health therapist on staff that is available to all staff members throughout the season. The recommendations were implemented in 2018 and are continuously evaluated by mental-health experts. This is the first year these mental-wellness recommendations were required in the league.

One issue Sky and the league have is how to provide universal mental-health support year-round when the WNBA season only lasts between four and five months.

Patrice Whitfield, Sky Mental-Performance Consultant, said, “We can talk about it and work to reduce stigma, but follow-up is needed, which requires a conducive environment and a positive mental-health environment.” system is required.”

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