Mental Health Advocate Victoria Garrick Brown’s Top Tips For Supporting Your Student-Athlete Kids

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SheKnows may receive an affiliate commission.

In 2017, Victoria Garrick Browne gave a TEDx talk that struck a chord. A rising junior at USC, Garrick Browne recounted her inspiring journey from walk-on to starter on a national champion USC volleyball team, but her Cinderella story soon morphed into a mental health battle. Garrick Browne developed anxiety and depression, struggling to keep up her athletic and academic performance while managing a grueling schedule. In the talk, she recalled sneaking off during water breaks to sob in the bathroom.

“There are a lot of demands placed on student athletes, whether it’s the schedule requirements, the travel requirements, the training, the preparation, then just the pressure to perform at a high level consistently,” Garrick Browne reflects now to SheKnows, after speaking at a period health panel sponsored by Midol. “And I think that, when combined all together, can be what really is the weight on a student-athlete’s shoulders.”

Eventually, Garrick Browne sought help. She started seeing a therapist, taking antidepressants, and practicing authenticity on social media and real life, but she was haunted by the knowledge that she wasn’t the only one suffering. Her TEDx talk, which has garnered over 584,000 views, was also a demand to dedicate more attention and resources to student-athlete mental health.

Ultimately, Garrick Browne decided to do the work herself. Now 27, the Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree went on to found The Hidden Opponent, a non-profit that raises awareness for student-athlete mental health. She’s also the host of REAL POD, which has racked up over 5 million downloads, and is a social media star with 1.4 million followers on TikTok, speaking candidly about her experience with body image, mental health, PCOS, and more. “One of my goals in life is just to de-stigmatize issues that are normal, but make people feel shame,” Garrick Browne says. “I don’t want people to feel ashamed of what it means to be human.”

Garrick Browne says she’s seen the conversation around mental health “grow tremendously” since she first started her advocacy work in 2017, but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy subject to broach, especially for parents of student-athletes who might not even know where to start. For those parents, Garrick Browne has two key tips.

“I always think leading with your own story or experiences allows another person to feel comfortable sharing theirs,” she says. “So parents [can] say, ‘Hey, I’ve experienced times in my life where I’m really stressed, and I feel anxious, whether it’s about work or raising a family, or I’ve had times in my life where I’ve just felt sad and gloomy.’” Leading with that level of empathy makes it more comfortable for your child to open up about feeling the same way.

“I’ll see parents — and I have this conversation with mine a lot — where they want to be strong and set the example,” Garrick Browne explains. “But also, it’s OK to let your kids know that you also are human, and that you’ve experienced some of the negative emotions as well, and that you struggle in your own ways. So I think just creating a space where you can be open and vulnerable, will then hopefully make your kids more comfortable to be honest with you about their experiences.”

The other step: making sure your child knows you love them no matter how they perform in their sport. Sometimes, Garrick Browne says, post-win celebrations — even something as simple as taking your child out to dinner after a victory — teaches them that they only receive love when they win. “But when you lose a game, there’s no dinner, or there’s no fun conversation,” she says.

As a parent, of course, you might feel like you’re always telling your child you love them unconditionally. Still, “actions speak louder than words,” Garrick Browne says. It’s about “making sure you’re there for them through the wins, but also the losses,” she says.

Garrick Browne, who has also spoken on social media about her struggles with body image and an eating disorder, also advocates for more openness around period health and treating menstrual symptoms. “I have had PCOS since I first got my period,” she shared. The condition prevented her from getting regular periods, so Garrick Browne was put on birth control “as a Band-Aid,” she says. “But after 10 years of taking the pill, I was like, ‘wait, I want to know what’s going on and try to find a solution and not just cover it up.’”

Garrick Browne sought a second opinion and did hormone panels to help better understand her body and cycle. “Now because of some of the differences that I’ve been making, I do get my period regularly every month, which to me is like such a win,” she says — though her period does typically start with “a lot of uncomfortable symptoms, like back pain and cramps and bloating and fatigue and nausea,” she adds. Garrick Browne, who is partnered with Midol, uses Midol Complete to manage her symptoms.

Period health a conversation she’s excited to have — along with her continuing advocacy for mental health — because it’s another opportunity to de-stigmatize and normalize a common struggle. “I still have friends who don’t know that they can have symptom relief from [periods],” Garrick Browne says. “It’s another thing that someone could be going through and feeling like I can’t talk about this or this only happens to me or I don’t deserve to seek help for this. I’m really wanting to encourage them that they can.”

Before you go, check out our favorite apps for mental health support:

Nous vous invitons…

Nous vous invitons à prendre rendez-vous avec un de nos psychologues, psychothérapeutes et psychopraticiens afin de faire un premier pas vers le changement que vous désirez. Si vous désirez obtenir de plus amples informations ou si vous avez des questions, n’hésitez pas à nous téléphoner. Vous pouvez prendre un rendez-vous par téléphone ou en envoyant un email au cabinet des Psychologues de Paris 9 (à l’attention du psychologue ou psychothérapeute de votre choix).