U.S. women’s national team stars Naomi Girma, Sophia Smith and Sofia Huerta have joined a new initiative aimed at tackling the rising mental health issues in soccer.
Girma, Smith and Huerta are among the international players to back the “Create the Space” project. Arsenal’s Beth Mead and Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell also are involved.
Through “Create the Space,” these players will join forces with Common Goal to develop a program that will help break down the stigma surrounding mental health. Both clubs and individuals can make use of the program.
Girma has been involved with Common Goal since before the 2023 World Cup. Girma and Smith also dedicated their World Cup journeys and their participation in the initiative to their Stanford teammate Katie Meyer, who died by suicide last spring.
On Thursday, Girma said that the new initiativ “will help people be the best versions of themselves and may even save lives.”
“What I have learned through losing my best friend, is that everyone struggles in their own way, even when it doesn’t seem they are,” Girma said. “Suffering doesn’t always look like the way it’s portrayed in the movies. No matter if I am a professional athlete, a student or whatever, making sure that I’m checking in on others and checking in on myself is so important.”
In England, Common Goal will develop a program alongside charity Football Beyond Borders.
“In January I lost my Mum and because of the injury I couldn’t play football, which was always my escape, my happy place,” Mead said. “Moments when people thought I was fine because of my outgoing personality, were very dark.
“It’s been a tough process to understand. Teammates, people at the club, family and friends that supported me were so important, without them I could have been in a far darker place. I want to help create an environment in which it’s totally normal to address mental health.
“There’s not a perfect way of dealing with it, but if you feel you’re not alone it helps so much. We need to normalize mental health and in doing so that would go a long way.”
Note: If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.