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Jess Prater: A Letter to my Support System


This year, I began to share my struggles with mental health. Meaningful connections are important, and I knew a strong support system was necessary to find successes while struggling with mental health. Those who comprised my support system contributed to my mental health journey in a myriad of ways. This is my way of thanking them and giving them the recognition they deserve.


To my parents,


I am sorry that I felt as though I was unable to divulge the mental warfare I was enduring sooner. I am sorry that I doubted the support you would provide when I was raw, vulnerable, and a shell of a person. Your unwavering love and support for the choices I have made to be more than my mental health has empowered me. You allow me to be genuine and vulnerable, and you refuse to let me feel small. You encourage me to use my voice to advocate. Your support has allowed me to not only acknowledge my mental health and utilize mental health services, but also to combat my own stigma and see myself as deserving of a better life.


To my friends,


I would not be alive without you. Each of you has taken a small fragment of the burden and carried it for me. You wanted better for me before I even wanted it for myself. DeMar DeRozan said that mental health is “Feeling lost, being around a bunch of people, but you feel like you’re in the middle of the ocean in a little kayak by yourself” (Ted Talk, 2021); your genuineness, compassion, and intimacy allowed me to sometimes have passengers on that kayak and feel joy, seldomly, but enough. You gave me glimpses of what life could be like and should be like. You made me want better for myself. No thank you will ever amount to all you have done for me.


To my teammates,

Never leave it at the door. Being vulnerable about mental health is empowering. Kevin Love said that “Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves…” (Players Tribune, 2018). Mental health must be embraced and addressed, or it will progress into something all-consuming. You allowed me to address this inner life and accept my mental health experiences. You taught me to overcome, rather than dwell. You taught me that my own well-being was more important than the sport, and I should never apologize for my mental health. You ensured me I was deserving of respect and inspired me to utilize my experience to empower others and disempower the stigma.


To me,


Never quit. Never forget that your voice has power. You are a warrior. You refused to live a life dictated by mental health. You are exceptional; your vulnerability and bravery are your greatest strengths. I am so proud of you. You are always enough.


Love,

Jess Prater


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