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Former Rainbow Wahine uses social media to bring awareness to mental health of athletes

Published: May. 22, 2021 at 6:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - May is National Mental Heath Awareness month and a former Rainbow Wahine volleyball player is using social media to put a spotlight on the well-being of athletes across the country.

Norene Iosia had a stellar career with UH women’s Volleyball, but it was her struggles off the court —including the loss of a close friend — that inspired her to create Athletes.RealTalk.

“It just kind of changed my whole mindset on what mental health is and what it looks like.” Iosia told Hawaii News Now sports reporter Kyle Chinen.

Starting on Instagram, Iosia wanted to create a place to have a conversation about mental health in athletics, trying to end a stigma that has plagued sports for generations — the notion of just “sucking it up.”

“That stigma is still surrounding mental health and what it looks like to be strong, if you come out and talk about your feelings and what you’re going through and anxiety, that’s going to look weak.” Iosia said. “They’re just so used to sucking it up and figuring it out on their own, finding their own way and yeah i’d say that’s why it’s so hard for athletes to seek help, it’s what they’ve been accustomed to, that’s what they’ve been taught.”

The page is full of information and resources for the athletes while also sharing real stories from some of the biggest stars at UH and the pros. Names like Penei Pavihi, Joe Worsley and Erik Shoji all sharing their struggles, showing that its okay to be vulnerable.

Only starting in 2020, the page has already started inspiring the next generation to be aware of their mental health.

“I meet little girls here, they don’t even talk about oh my gosh, we watched you playing volleyball like blah blah blah.” Iosia said. ”No they’re talking about like I follow your real talk page, like we love it and that comment is so, like wow my heart, because I wish I knew those things when I was young, I wish somebody was talking to me about my mental health and its okay to talk about it.”

As Athletes.RealTalk continues to grow, Iosia says the message doesn’t change and the conversation must continue — for additional information, head to Athletes.RealTalk on Instagram.

National Alliance of Mental Illness: Ok2talk.org

National Institute on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcoholtreatment.niaaa.nih.gov

National Eating Disorder: Nationaleatingdisorders.org

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