UFC Fighter Ronda Rousey recently appeared on Ellen to discuss her devastating loss to Holly Holm last November. While the popular talk show host interviewed her, Rousey took the incredibly brave step of speaking about how deeply the loss affected her. She said that she felt that "no one [would give] a shit" about her after such a loss, and that being perfect was all she had.
While some responded with insensitivity and judgement to her admission, Rousey stood by her open natured comments:
The stigma [needs to be taken away] from everything suicide and [we need to] make it actually acceptable for people to talk about and look for help and not feel ashamed of themselves for it. I think that [an open discussion] should be encouraged. It's not about damning people and I feel like there's been an overly negative light on that. It's something real people are going through.
Stigma is a very real problem mental health advocates, and those with mental illnesses, face. Stigma can prevent people from seeking the help they need, or can present barriers to accessing psychiatric care in times of crisis. While there have been a few UFC fighters who have been open about their struggles (Nick Diaz speaking about his issues with anxiety and Georges St-Pierre's battle with OCD among recent examples), there is still the belief that mental health can be obtained simply by willing it to be so. Anyone who has struggled with mental health, or anyone who is compassionate enough to be sensitive to the struggles of others, knows that one can't simply will themselves to health. Sadly, there is still a culture of stigma that surrounds mental health issues.
When asked about Rousey's statements, Holm responded by admitting that she was unfamiliar with "that subject", and claimed that she was not trying to diminish or dismiss Rousey's very real struggle. Unfortunately, her next comment highlighted the very reason society needs to rid itself of the stigma, saying, "I would never get that low after a loss...obviously you need to get better [after a loss] because this fighter was better than you tonight".
Holm isn't the first UFC fighter to dismiss these very real concerns. In 2015, Bethe Correia fought Rousey, and joked that she hopes Rousey "does not kill herself later on". Rousey had the upper hand in that fight, winning in less than 35 seconds. Prior the fight, Rousey responded to Correia's incredibly insensitive comments on Twitter, posting "suicide is no joke or selling point. My father will be with me the day I hand you the comeuppance you deserve".
Suicidal thoughts truly have very little to do with a loss in the ring and everything to do with how that loss affects a person. While Rousey has not "come out" as having any one particular mental illness, suicidal thoughts can affect us all, and often come without warning, preparation, or, in many cases, a "good enough" reason. Rousey's outspoken nature about these very real, and very scary, thoughts helps to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide. Rousey put it very well, saying:
It's not a weakness we should condemn. I've never shied away from talking about suicide or anything like that. It's really heavily affected [my own] family, and anything I could do to make sure it affects as few people as possible, I'd be happy to to do that.
In her interview with Ellen, Rousey spoke of her father and grandfather, two very major influences on her life, and both of whom lost their lives due to suicide. In her memoir My Fight/Your Fight Rousey wrote of her father's suicide, saying that "none of us were the same after that". Rousey was close with her father, and the loss affected her deeply.
Rousey's work to end stigma isn't a recent, cause-of-the-moment act, either. In 2014 she was awarded the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award from the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, one of the few free mental health clinics in California. Most of her work with that clinic involves young girls trying to recover from eating disorders, something Rousey has identified with in the past.
You can view Rousey's TMZ interview on the subject below. If you are feeling low, or know someone who is, you can also visit Together We Are Strong, which contains a list of mental health helplines, organized by country.http://tmz.vo.llnwd.net/o28/2016-02/23/0_xhbxl89a_0_4gml0azx_2.mp4