Raven Saunders is an American track and field in the shot put and discus throw fields, but her path to success has been interspersed with bouts of depression. Something has spoken candidly about for years.
Saunders finished fifth in the Olympic shot put competition in 2016. But the following season, Saunders described it as “gruelling” 2017, reaching her lowest point the subsequent year.
“I was literally in a daze and I didn’t stop,” she explained.
Speaking to CNN Sport, Saunders, nicknamed “The hulk,” went into further detail about her fight to preserve her mental health.
“It was like no one really understood the pain and the challenges I was going through,” Saunders shared. It got worse and worse and worse and worse till it all boiled over … I remember in the morning, just going through the motions, kind of being in a daze, having things to do, but not really having any motivation or any care to really get anything done. Then hopping in my car and driving and looking at that spot.”
The past few months have seen a shift in sports when it comes to mental health. Some of sports’ most prominent female athletes have spoken out about the pressure they face under the glare of the spotlight.
Their mental health needs are often overlooked. Even sponsors lacking in compassion. Saunders wants to do what she can to change the current environment.
“It wasn’t necessarily the work, because I can get the work done, but it was the pressures and stresses and all of these mandatory things that you had to do and places you had to be that for me seemed pointless, because I was there to throw the shot put,” says Saunders.
“I got to a place where, coming back from the Olympics, I was questioning who I was. I was down because it’s like I’m being put back into this place that I don’t necessarily want to be in.”
Saunders teamed up with the mental health initiative, Well Beings, to release a short documentary about her journey with depression.
Saunders still struggles with depression at times, but receiving therapy and leaning on a close group of friends for emotional support has helped her. She hopes that speaking out about her experiences will help others.
“The people that I can help, or people that are trying to get better or who are seeking help because of my personal story — it really warms my heart,” says Saunders. “I always felt like in life, trying to reach people — to help people — is really my purpose.”