GettyImages-1337295596

Sloane Stephens has long been an advocate for prioritizing mental health and self-care, and on Thursday the American took her mission all the way to the White House.

The 2017 US Open champion joined Golden Globe winner Taraji P. Henson and WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike for a virtual roundtable discussion on mental health and wellness in the Black community, a part of the White House’s Black History Month celebrations.

Stephens, who joined the WTA Tour at 15 years old, opened up on the pressures of growing up in the spotlight and feeling the expectation to always perform at a high level.

“I think I'm able to recognize, ‘Okay, I’m not feeling well because.’ Now I know I can identify those, but when I was 18 or 19 years old and a professional athlete learning my way through life, I was also juggling millions of people watching me playing tennis every day. It was just unbearable,” she said.

“Now I find it great… I’m able to manage those emotions a lot easier because I know, ‘Okay, I’m overwhelmed and I need to take a minute for myself.’ I can manage myself easier now.”

Advertising

The discussion, which was moderated by White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, also centered around overcoming the unique mental health challenges facing the Black community—including access to healthcare and stigma.

“I’m one of those people who now finds it very easy to say how I feel, but I’ve gone to therapy since I was 13 years old,” Stephens said. “My mom is a psychologist. So I’ve had an extreme amount of support, but a lot of people don’t have that. I want people to be able to have that support and not feel judged when they feel something.”

“I’m thankful that I’ve been able to share my story and a lot of people have been super supportive of seeing me as myself, as a human and not just Sloane Stephens The Athlete,” she added.

“Once people are able to accept that there’s a ‘you’ underneath the athlete or the celebrity, it’s a lot easier to be human.

Anyone who may be experiencing a mental health challenge should know that help is available and treatment works. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit https://findtreatment.gov/.