Following her fifth-place performance at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games, Lacee Barnes turned her attention to highlighting the importance of mental health.
“The most important factor I took away from this competition is [to] never count yourself out,” Barnes said.
The national record holder for both discus and shot put competed in her ‘go too event’ (discus) during the games, throwing 51.00 metres in the finals, positioning her at fifth overall.
Barnes, 22, said while she “feels good” about her performance at the PanAm Games, her mission is to inspired athletes around the world who are struggling mentally.
“I’m an advocate for athletes’ mental health awareness due to struggles of my own,” she said. “I’ve taken the time to address these issues and I want to express to other athletes the importance of acknowledging your mental health. We all go through it.”
The University of Texas at San Antonio alumni added; “This was the most confident I’ve felt in years, solely because of the support from loved ones and professionals who helped me get through my mental blocks.”
While the topic has been talked about in the past, the way athletes struggle with their mental health didn’t get much attention until the Tokyo Olympics, when reigning Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of a few competitions.
“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being,” Biles said during the games. “It was like fighting all those demons.”
The move was praised and received backlash at the same time, but figures like Olympian Michael Phelps, and hundreds of other athletes supported Biles and even called attention to their own personal struggles with mental health.