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TW: mentions of suicide

“If you’re reading this, you are so loved, and the world needs you here.” is a mental health nonprofit that empowers students to build and tap into their support networks by amplifying the faces and voices of the people who want to connect. Our mission is to create a community around mental health, encourage radical empathy, and use peer support to bridge gaps in mental health resources. 

Inspired by our personal experiences as NCAA D1 athletes, we are co-leading a student-athlete campaign in which student-athletes around the country share letters expressing their experiences with mental health and highlighting the importance of conversations around mental health in athletics. These letters share each athlete's unique and individual journey. The purpose is to strive to build a community that supports one another through all the challenges and glories. As student-athletes who have been deeply impacted by mental illness,  we’re writing to share our stories and inspiration for creating this student-athlete campaign.

If you are a student-athlete or student-athlete alumnus and are interested in contributing a letter for this series, please visit the link below for more information and guidelines for submitting a letter. We would love to hear from you and share your unique story

Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook: @ifyourereadingthisorg

Rachael Holp: Swimming - ASU  2018-2022 

Rachael Holp

Sharing our stories is one of the most important things we can do to help others. As one of my favorite authors and researchers, Brené Brown, says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Nearly four years ago, I was a division one student-athlete trying to juggle school, my division one sport—swimming—as well as friendships, relationships, clubs, and other extracurriculars. 

It was November 2019 and I was in the darkest headspace I had ever been in. I was high functioning; and you probably would not have been able to tell I was struggling except that I was always very on edge and stressed. However, I felt like I had no time to myself or to do things that bring me happiness. I really started to struggle with my performance in the pool while also trying to stay focused in school, sleeping, and being social in general. I felt like if I were to change something, stop, or drop part of my schedule people would judge me, and talk about me. I also felt I would be a failure and unable to continue with school or even swim anymore.

Ultimately, I got to the point where those thoughts drove me into the ground, and I could not function anymore. I developed dangerous and suicidal thoughts and as soon as those around me found out, I had to go home. So, I stopped swimming, took a semester off school and focused solely on my mental health. For the first time, I saw a therapist just for bettering myself, not related to sports performance or anything outside of the want to get better. While, I do not recommend this is the path that everyone should take if they are struggling, as we have many excellent resources here on campus, those around me knew what I needed at that time. 

Rachael Holp and teammates swimming

I am here, living proof, that there is a way to be happy and healthy both physically and mentally even when it quite literally feels impossible

And it DOES get better. You just have to lean on one person, no matter if they are a friend, coworker, peer, stranger, professor, or psychologist to ask for some help. They can help handle the rest. Your life and story are so valuable and precious. Please never forget that. The world needs you here. Trust was one of the most important things for me to build while I was focused on recovery. When I was struggling the most, I did not trust that if I were to listen to my body and take time for myself my coaches would understand and support me, that my teachers would understand and support me, and that friends would understand and support me.

Taking the leap and going home was one of the hardest things to actually do. It takes immense courage and I found that in those months of recovery, many of my fears were not true. I slowly began trusting that home was exactly where I needed to be. I learned that the people that truly loved and cared about me, always loved and cared about me no matter what happened and what the situation was. I learned that my coaches, teachers, friends and family truly wanted me to be the best version of myself. They did not care about the extra hurdles and details that would have to be figured out for my situation. After we were allowed to return to campus after the initial wave of COVID, I came back to school, decided to switch my major to a path that aligned well with my passions, and returned to my team and was reunited with my friends and the people that supported me unwaveringly. 

After reflecting and working through more of my experiences, it also led me to start a chapter of an incredible mental health organization on campus, IfYoureReadingThis, to help others with their mental health journeys. IfYoureReadingThis is a non-profit mental health organization that strives to help end mental health stigma by sharing open letters from students’ experiences from across the country at college campuses. Being a student-athlete and a part of the organization for several years, I’m now thrilled to co-lead this initiative of a student-athlete series for all campuses, with or without IYRT chapters, to highlight the importance of conversation around mental health in athletics. 

Now, fast forward four years, I am proud to say I finished my swimming collegiate career at the PAC-12 championship in 2022, graduated in the Spring shortly after, continued on to graduate school at Georgetown University, and now am actively pursuing my goal and ultimate dream of becoming a physician to help others. Many days, moments, hard times, disappointment, heartbreak, challenges, joyous celebrations and every emotion possible have passed since that initial day in November of 2019 when I honestly did not want to be alive. I PROMISE you that it was worth taking the extra breath and staying here on this earth. Life is not easy, no matter what circumstances you are dealt with, and everyone is fighting or battling a silent battle you cannot see. Through my experiences as a student-athlete, as well as a normal human adult post-graduation, I garnered a deep sense of understanding, love, compassion and empathy for all those around me and I have made it my life’s mission to make sure no one feels as alone or in a place of deep darkness as I did.

As I reflect on my time as a student-athlete, and all of the lessons I learned during my time at Arizona State, I feel a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the experiences I had that shaped me into the person I am today. It has been a journey to navigate life without competitive sports. However, the valuable skills I learned as a student-athlete (such as asking for help, showing up for myself and others, and the importance of vulnerability) have served me so well in this new chapter of life. I know that whatever comes my way, I am loved and supported to make it through the hard times in life. And so are you. Being a student-athlete is the greatest challenge, blessing and accomplishment. You are meant for greatness, and most importantly, I am so glad you are here.

Gabrielle Pack: Track and Field  - Cornell University 2021-2022 and UC Berkeley 2023-2024 

Gabrielle Pack pole vaulting

As a pole vaulter at UC Berkeley and Cornell University, my accomplishments are a testimony to my best friend, Alex. Despite being diagnosed with cancer at twelve years old, Alex has been by my side, cheering me on, from childhood through my NCAA D1 career. 

Despite the uncertainty of life, Alex always ventured on with grace and hope. Even when she was little, she was able to explore life, for all of its wonders, and could see the limitless possibilities the world has to offer. This is a gift that not many people have. It is Alex’s kind heart that would motivate and push others to pursue their dreams and reach their full potentials.

My journey was made special due to her relentless support that has allowed me to believe in the beauty of my dreams, find my why, and embrace optimism. Through all the glories and hardships, she was there to cheer me on, no matter what. 

When I began pole vaulting my freshman year of high school, I was very tall, lanky, and underweight for my age. Multiple coaches had told me that I would never make it in this sport because I was too weak and uncoordinated. The first day that I held the pole vaulting pole, I knew that this was my passion and I was determined to do what it took to achieve my goals. Most importantly, Alex believed in me. She taught me how to pursue my dreams; that it is daily dedication that makes the most impact, a dream cannot be accomplished overnight. That summer I built a 15 foot apparatus in my backyard with gymnastic rings and a pull up bar. Every day, in rain or shine, I worked towards my goals with determination. On day one, I could not do a pull up, and neither could I on day 30. Nevertheless, I was there trying, and Alex was there cheering me on. Until finally, I was able to do my first pull up. I took the same approach to other parts of my training: to show up, each and every day, and progress one step at a time. 

Gabrielle and Alex

When I tried to focus on where I wanted to be, she reminded me of how far I had come. Reminding me to enjoy the beautiful journey I have embarked on and to focus on putting one step in front of the other. Learning to be patient and trust the process, I was able to accomplish more than I ever dreamed of in the sport. I thank Alex for her hope and guidance, through each step of my journey, and for never giving up on me. 

After an eight year battle, fighting cancer with grit and determination, Alex passed away. Alex is anything but ordinary, she is extraordinary. I cherish and uphold all that she has taught me and aspire to care and support others just as she has done for me. My relationship with her has shown the impact that a meaningful support system can have on one’s athletic career. 

Alex inspired me to create a campaign for student athletes for IfYoureReadingThis. A journey is made meaningful by those met along the way. Being a student athlete, it is inevitable for challenges to not arise, but no matter the circumstances, having a support system is vital. Your mental and physical health matter and you are not alone. To the student athletes out there, you are strong, capable, and resilient and I want each of you to know that we are here to support you in pursuit of your dreams. 

Read more stories from student-athletes across the country:

Reyne R.- “​​If you’re reading this, know you are more than your sport; you are every action/emotion/thought that makes you, you.”

Margaux R.- If you’re reading this, you should know that your sport does not define you.”

Olivia G.- “If you’re reading this amidst the storm, know you’re not alone sitting around in your dorm.”

Anonymous- If you're reading this, I want you to know that being a student-athlete with an eating disorder can be scary but you are stronger than your eating disorder, you are not alone, and recovery is worth it.”

Anonymous- If you’re reading this, performance anxiety doesn’t have to get the best of you when you compete.”

Skylar Rose- If you’re reading this, who you are is greater than what you do.”



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