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Just Sayin': Athletes put focus on mental health

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, who won the bronze

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, who won the bronze in the Women's Balance Beam Final, was among the athletes who used the Olympics to promote awareness of mental health. Credit: Getty Images/Laurence Griffiths

Three of the world’s most remarkable athletes, gymnast Simone Biles, tennis player Naomi Osaka and swimmer Michael Phelps, have used the international sports stage to highlight the importance of mental health. Their willingness to share their private thoughts and struggles has sent a powerful message about the stigma of crisis and having the courage to seek help.

The immediate effects of their actions may not be quantifiable, but over the past months, related searches and social media posts have soared. The message that these athletes have communicated to thousands who may be having difficulty articulating their needs or fully understanding the significance of well-being has been invaluable. Reducing the stigma associated with mental illness will have a more lasting impact than any Olympic medal.

Athletes and entertainers hold a tremendous amount of influence, especially for the youth who see them as role models. For those overwhelmed with anxiety or depression, or who feel they may hurt themselves, seeing these conditions in others may break through   isolation and perceived embarrassment.

These athletes also showed the importance of balance in life. Sometimes, living up to others’ expectations comes at too high a price. Learning skills to cope with struggles and overcome crises is part of living a more fulfilling life.

We need this shift in dialogue to expand. We also need to build awareness about the negative impact of ignoring treatment and its toll on society. We know that mental health counseling, addiction prevention and treatment, advocacy programs, and care coordination services have become even more crucial because of the isolation of social distancing, online learning, and working remotely. Family Service League offers a 24-hour crisis hotline for Long Island’s vulnerable children and adults, 631-952-3333. 

— Karen Boorshtein, Huntington

The writer is president and CEO of the Family Service League.

Fly ‘Liberty Airlines’ — a 2021 odyssey

On behalf of our unvaccinated flight crew at "Liberty Airlines," we welcome you all aboard! Here at Liberty, your personal freedoms will not be compromised by public health concerns, and we are proud to be the only airline that gives Americans the choice of wearing a mask ["Views vary on ‘freedom,’ " Just Sayin’, July 31].

You may also choose whether to cover your mouth when you cough, or wash your hands after. If you enjoy a cigarette at 35,000 feet, flight attendants will be happy to assist you with a complimentary "Liberty" lighter.

If a loaded assault rifle on your lap brings you comfort, our new "economy plus" seats will provide you and "your little friend" a spacious in-flight experience. We place no limit on carry-on luggage because, unlike our competitors, once the overhead bins are full, we line the center aisle with all remaining bags.

Your electronic devices may be used at all times, but headphones are not recommended, as we encourage all passengers to express themselves with complete disregard for those around them. There are no seat belt signs, so feel free to roam the cabin and even interact with our pilots.

Remember, here at Liberty, your freedom comes first.

— Andrew Ginsburg, Southport

How do we solve the problems we’ve made?

I sometimes despair of the United States, or the world, for that matter, ever getting together again and repairing the divides.

I think the main reason for the divide is because with social media, the internet and cable TV, people can now choose to listen only to opinions reinforcing their viewpoints. I have no idea how we can find a road back.

Personally, I choose to listen to national network TV news, such as it is, which once gave us a common point of reference. Perhaps others are doing that.

However, oneAnother aspect of that really upsets me: Some vocationscan now badvertise on national TV who never could before when I was young, and it is hard to listen to — physicians,lawyers, dentistslenders, gamblers, medical companies, etc.

It seems that many are simply preying on innocent, vulnerable people, such as compulsive gamblers, drug addicts, people with serious diseases or mental health problems, people in legal trouble, et al.

How do we solve these problems?

— Jerry Mintz, Roslyn Heights

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