The training, commitment and mental fortitude required to become a fencer builds athletes who are uniquely prepared to excel both on and off the fencing strip.
But at USA Fencing, we recognize that the same steps that may lead to fencing success can create a mental strain on athletes, coaches and officials. And that’s before you add in the stressors of everyday life outside of fencing.
With that in mind, we’re pleased to introduce the USA Fencing Member Wellness Program, which offers free, confidential counseling services to members who need mental health support.
The program works like this: Athletes, coaches, officials or other USA Fencing members who need mental health support can reach out to USA Fencing by emailing CEO Phil Andrews at firstname.lastname@example.org or Athlete Safety and Compliance Manager Christina Pachuta at email@example.com.
Andrews or Pachuta will then connect that member with a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed professional counselor or a licensed professional with a doctor of psychology degree.
The member’s information will be kept in confidence, and Andrews/Pachuta will connect the member with an appropriate professional in their local area as soon as is reasonably possible.
“USA Fencing has a responsibility to support the mental, physical and emotional health of our membership — particularly our athletes as they work their way through their career in the sport,” Andrews says. “We are pleased to join USA Cycling, USA Weightlifting and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, amongst others, in offering these pro-bono services to support our members.”
The short answer is this: If you’re experiencing any type of mental health strain, don’t wait or wonder whether your concerns qualify for this program. Reach out right away.
This might include forms of trauma like exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, sexual assault, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual harassment, bullying, violence, athletic retirement or another significant loss that has occurred either accidentally or intentionally at any time in your life.
Exposure can include direct involvement, but witnessing an event or having an event occur to a loved one can qualify under this definition. The trauma suffered does not have to be related to the sport of fencing in any way.
(Note: If you have experienced sexual or non-sexual abuse or misconduct while participating in fencing, please file a report through FenceSafe and/or the U.S. Center for SafeSport. Learn more here.)
In addition, USA Fencing will support any athlete or former elite athlete who is currently or who has suffered from addiction and/or depression related to their participation in the sport of fencing. This includes those who suffer from a diagnosed mental health disorder.
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or go to your nearest emergency room.
If you are an elite athlete (meaning you have attended the FIE or IWAS World Championships, Olympic Games, Paralympic Games or Pan American Games in the past 10 years), you can also take advantage of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s mental health resources here.
Individuals with an LCSW, LPC, LPCC, LMHC, LMFT, PsyD or related certification who would like to participate in the USA Fencing Member Wellness Program as a provider are encouraged to reach out to Phil Andrews at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, USA Fencing is open to further suggestions from membership regarding how to best support the mental health needs of our community. If you have a suggestion to share, please reach out to us.
By working together and supporting one another, we can all shine.