BLAINE, Minn. (5/6/2022) – The National Sports Center is launching a mental health initiative at Target USA CUP (7/8/22-7/16/22) to spread awareness, provide educational opportunities, and build community to address the mental health crisis among youth athletes.
The initiative will be interwoven throughout Target USA CUP, the 1,200 team international youth soccer tournament, and will culminate on Wednesday of the tournament for Speak Up at Target USA CUP day. Events and activation for the day will include educational presentations, street team activation and giveaways, local mental health organization presence, and more. The National Sports Center campus and Target USA CUP staff will also be adorned with green ribbons, the international symbol for mental health awareness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 17% of youth (6-17 years) experience a mental health disorder. With 16,000 athletes expected at Target USA CUP, this statistic translates to 2,720 athletes at the tournament that may be affected. There is widespread stigma existing around health-seeking behavior in youth and amateur athletes. The stigma encourages the belief that mental illness is a sign of weakness and not that of a “winner”.
Speak Up at Target USA CUP seeks to challenge that stigma and create a supportive environment for athletes to speak up if they are facing mental health challenges.
Target USA CUP is partnering with two groups to offer mental health awareness and education sessions during the tournament: The U.S. Center for Mental Health and Sport (USC-MHS), and Mark Wick. The USC-MHS will offer sessions geared toward adults in an athlete’s life such as parents and coaches. Mark Wick will offer sessions geared towards athletes and their teammates.
The U.S. Center for Mental Health & Sport is a national organization developing sport environments that allow for optimum mental wellness by providing mental health training and resources, opening pathways to access additional mental health support services, and committing to the advancement of mental health and sport research.
Mark Wick is a local mental health advocate normalizing mental health as a priority and creating a culture that lets people know it is ok to seek help. His goal is to help organizations create a culture that encourages people to seek help if needed.
Speak Up at Target USA CUP will also feature community mental health organizations doing their part to support the mental health of athletes. Organizations include:
- Jordyn Clark Foundation
- Mental Health Minnesota
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Minnesota
- Shine a Light
- Sophie’s Squad
Speak Up at Target USA CUP has a website for those interested in learning more about the initiative and the organizations involved: https://www.usacup.org/speak-up/