When it comes to wellness, oftentimes our mental health is neglected in the overwhelming day-to-day routine.
Knowing firsthand how prioritizing one’s well-being is the fuel to push forward, Venus Williams has taken action to support individuals from all walks of life in their journeys.
Last year, the tennis legend joined BetterHelp and the Women’s Tennis Association to provide $2 million in free therapy sessions, as previously reported by AfroTech.
Now, she has returned, bringing fellow tennis stars on board and even more aid for the cause.
For the second consecutive year, Williams has partnered with BetterHelp to destigmatize seeking professional help — especially in the Black community — as well as to provide access to free therapy resources, according to a press release shared with AfroTech.
Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz are also a part of the partnership, which is providing a total of $3 million for one-month free therapy subscriptions.
Being a dominating professional athlete for most of her life, Williams has faced intense challenges on and off the court.
As a Black trailblazer in a predominately white sport since her youth, the seven-time Grand Slam champion has been quite familiar with how working in spaces where you don’t see many who look like you can take a real toll. Many around the world have tuned into her story and with BetterHelp, she aims to help all backgrounds unpack their own and be heard.
“I was always taught that I would have to fight harder than other players to get the respect I deserved, so that’s what I thought ‘being tough’ meant,” Venus Williams shared exclusively with AfroTech. “I have since learned that taking care of my mental health is really what makes me tough. So, my hope for this partnership is to empower people to take care of their mental health and provide the practical tools that can really make a difference.”
Williams fully credits her parents for steering her onto the path of taking her mental health seriously. While the level of vulnerability necessary for therapy can be frightening, having a supportive family in her corner allowed her to not only delve into it but also become a leading advocate for others.
“Being vulnerable and asking for help isn’t an easy thing to do. But from a young age, my parents stressed the importance of taking care of my ‘whole self,’ both physically and mentally, to deal with the challenges of everyday life and especially the pressures that come with being a professional athlete,” she shared with us. “I was only 14 when I first started on the professional tennis circuit and it took me a while to fully understand the extent of what my parents were telling me – that in order to succeed on the court, I needed to have a balanced life and take care of myself off the court. Having a family who championed mental health helped me push past any apprehensions and made me want to be an advocate for destigmatizing mental health treatment.”
Back in 2011, Williams publicly shared that she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome — a systemic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. Handling the news of the diagnosis is a part of what led her back to her parents’ life lesson of proactively taking care of her mental health. Cognizant that not everyone has the privilege of a support system like hers, she aspires for people to have the opportunity to be a part of the BetterHelp family.
“While I learned early on that taking care of my mental health is just as important as taking care of my physical health, I didn’t seek professional help for some time,” Williams admitted. “We all go through ups and downs in life where our mental health is tested and it’s difficult to cope with things on our own — for me, one of those challenging times was when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome a few years ago. When I learned there wasn’t a straightforward solution to managing the condition, it took a toll on me both mentally and physically, which helped me realize just how important mental health is both on and off the court.”
She continued: “I am lucky to have the support of my parents and my sisters who are big proponents of mental health, but I recognize not everyone is fortunate enough to have a support system like that, which is why the work BetterHelp is doing is so crucial.”