Women & Mental Health: A Conversation With Olympian Alexi Pappas

April 13, 2022

McLean Hospital’s Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council (WHMLC) recently hosted Olympic runner and award-winning actor and writer Alexi Pappas for a virtual conversation around mental health.

More than 150 invited guests tuned in to hear Pappas share her experience of clinical depression following a stellar and record-breaking performance in the 10,000-meter race at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, where she competed as a member of the Greek track and field team.

“Alexi represents a new generation of people who proudly and openly discuss their mental health,” said Carroll Pierce, co-chair of the WMHLC. “She is an exuberant soul…who thinks big and pushes us to do the same.”

Pappas recently published her memoir “Bravey,” a collection of personal and candid vignettes on topics ranging from goal setting to the power of language, and from embracing pain to the hard work of recovering from severe depression.

Olympian Alexis

Olympian Alexi Pappas

Jenn Kearney, host of McLean’s Mental Health Webinar Series, joined Pappas to talk with her about the book, the stigma of a psychiatric diagnosis, and the importance of getting the right help.

For well over an hour, Pappas—with her own brand of enthusiasm and optimism—shared stories, advice, and some profound thoughts about how to change the narrative around mental illness.

Pappas’s message centers around the critical need for everyone—athletes, in particular—to treat mental illness in the same way they treat a physical illness.

“The pain that people feel [should] be taken at face value,” Pappas said, noting that the inability to “prove” the often-invisible injury of a mental illness can inhibit its being taken seriously and, thus, treated effectively.

Watch Now!

Watch a recording of the conversation with Pappas

In “Bravey” Pappas writes that “conquering my depression was the hardest and bravest thing I’ve ever done.”

She underscored that it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that our loved ones get the help they need, and she believes that “anyone is helpable.” She also emphasized not settling for a therapist or doctor that didn’t feel like the right fit.

Pappas was candid and generous with her responses to both Kearney’s questions and those that came from the audience.

Pierce and her fellow WMHLC co-chair, Kristine Trustey, expressed their excitement that “today’s conversation is the beginning of a meaningful and impactful collaboration between Alexi and McLean.”

Read more about McLean’s Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council or contact Erin Collins-Moore for additional information.

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