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Here For You: Hear From ESPN+’s Storytellers Addressing Mental Health

In observance of Mental Health Action Day, baseball player Drew Robinson, The Undefeated's Jesse Washington and other ESPN content creators share their perspectives

Here is a sampling of the content ESPN+ offers that addresses the importance of mental health. (ESPN)

Today, May 20, is the inaugural Mental Health Action Day.

In honor of this day of action and awareness month, Front Row interviewed five different voices – ranging from content director to athlete – involved in ESPN+ storytelling in mental health.

Below, they offer unique perspectives and personal stories about fighting the stigma regarding mental health. They are creating powerful connections for fans through storytelling on an important subject that often can be misunderstood.

Drew Robinson, Professional Baseball Player And Mental Health Advocate

How has sharing your story affected fans since the release of Alive: The Drew Robinson Story?
Robinson: The feedback I’ve received from fans has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’m truly grateful for that.

This could have very easily been spun into a selfish thing and taken out of context, but to see the feedback be so supportive and uplifting means everything to me. It’s really special to be able to have deeper conversations with people about mental health and then to see their eyes light up when they get that first spark of hope when they realize there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If I can have an impact on one person with all of this, then it’s 100 percent worth it.

Kati Fernandez, Director, Original Content Development & Integration

How can these stories create action in fighting the stigma?
Fernandez: It’s awareness, prominence, and conversations. From Alive: The Drew Robinson Story to I Bear Witness: A Portrait of Darnella Frazier [coming to ESPN+ May 29], we all have a story.

By putting them on the screen, it helps spark and normalize conversations around mental health. Mental health isn’t taboo and shouldn’t be treated as such. We’ve come a long way, but we have a lot further to go. This is an ongoing fight and conversation that we should have with our teams, with ourselves, and on the screen.

Dave Katzman, Associate Manager, Original Content ESPN+

What does “Fight The Stigma” mean to you?
Katzman: “Fight The Stigma” is the row on the ESPN+ streaming site that we decided to curate this month to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.

To us, Fight The Stigma is all about perception. Focusing and improving one’s mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of; in fact, it’s a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. Thus, we not only curated stories that most would consider to be traditional examinations of a mental health conditions but also showcased stories about vulnerability, anger, sadness, and the subject’s thoughtful dealings with these important emotions.

Everyone is going through something, and we should all be supported by our family, friends, colleagues, and society to self-improve. If a negative stigma is associated with this process, it affects us all.

Jesse Washington, Director, ESPN+’s Black History Always Special, I Bear Witness: A Portrait of Darnella Frazier

How has the story you worked on impacted your outlook on mental health in the Black community?
Washington: Working on the Darnella Frazier story has highlighted the trauma experienced by communities that witness police violence, let alone have to experience it. Just seeing police violence around you can leave lifelong scars.

These are medical issues, and we don’t have the same access to medical care or even the knowledge of the kind of medical care that is available as other wealthier places do. Strength through trials and tribulations has always been a characteristic of the Black community, making a way out of no way. But that comes at a huge cost.

I think that this past year of activism and what was set in motion by Darnella Frazier’s video [of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020] has helped our community understand that mental health and trauma from these environments is something that should be treated with the highest priority.

Corley Stone, Director, ESPN Product Marketing

What does Mental Health Awareness and Black History Always storytelling mean to the ESPN+ brand?
Stone: Both Black History Always and Mental Health Awareness Month are extremely important to ESPN+ from a brand perspective.

ESPN+’s most recent brand campaign was “It Exists Because You Do,” which is to say, we exist as a brand and product to bring fans the content, fandom, storytelling, etc., that they want or need and potentially might not be able to find elsewhere.

By bringing storytelling across Black History Always and Mental Health Awareness to life, we’re delivering on that mantra as well. We’re saying we hear you, we see you, and we think your stories, just like your favorite sports and fandoms, are important.

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