Auckland, New Zealand. Vulture had been spamming Naomi Girma for about a year when she came up with the idea to honor a dead friend.
She thought of Cathy Meyer, her former Stanford football teammate, who committed suicide last March. Thinking of her warmth and spirit. So, shortly before the anniversary of Meyer’s shocking death, Girma decided: I want to create something in her legacy.
She emailed Lilly Barrett-O’Keeffe, CEO of Common Goal USA, a non-profit dedicated to “solving the greatest social problems of our time.”
Girma knew that a huge platform was approaching her, the Women’s World Championship; and she wanted to use it.
“I want to start a movement,” Girma Barrett-O’Keeffe said. In the coming months, she hired teammates from the US and wrote scripts for the videos. Together with Common Goal and Fox, she developed a mental health initiative that launched on Wednesday that Barrett-O’Keeffe says is already saving lives.
It all started with a powerful public announcement to all who are struggling: “Dig in, lend a hand,” the USWNT players preached. “Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness.”
Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness. My teammates and I are determined to provide everyone with the support they need.
Launching the first of its kind mental health initiative with my friends from @CommonGoalOrg.
This is for you Katy pic.twitter.com/AoGLUcxeMU
— Naomi Girma (@naomi_girma) July 18, 2023
It also started with an article published Tuesday in The Players Tribune that Girma found hard to tell. “It’s still very raw for me,” she said of Meyer and the void left by her “true friend.” But “through this project,” Girma said, “her spirit, her warmth and her legacy will live on. We’ll take care of it.”
She and others hope the project “de-stigmatizes mental health talk, especially for the millions of young people across the country who will be watching this World Cup.” Fox allocated 1% – more than two hours – of World Cup airtime to this topic.
Girma, Sophia Huerta, and Sophia Smith — another teammate and friend of Meyer’s at Stanford — also filmed a three-part video series in which they talk about their mental health issues to young girls. Girma got fixated on Smith with the project already in place, and Smith, of course, jumped overboard because “everything we do is now for Katie,” Smith said.
But Girma was sure all along that the project would go beyond awareness. “For her, it’s all about the action,” Barrett-O’Keeffe said. Girma wrote: “We want to make sure young people have the tools to deal with depression, anxiety, stress and really bad days when it feels like the weight of the world is on their shoulders and it can never get better. “.
So they devised a plan. After the World Cup, after commercials already viewed by millions, they are “going to send mental health professionals to youth sports organizations in communities across the country to make sure coaches and players have the tools and skills.” know when someone is dealing with a mental health issue and how to get the proper help,” Girma said.
This part of the project is still a work in progress, but Barrett-O’Keeffe further explained, “We are gathering coaches from underprivileged communities in over 20 communities across the US to come and train with us on trauma. Human.”
It will happen this winter. In addition, during the National Women’s Football League off-season, they will work with NWSL teams “to train players to be mental health captains or quarterbacks, champions,” Barrett-O’Keefe said.
And all of this, according to Barrett-O’Keeffe, comes from Girm, a 23-year-old centre-back poised to step into the spotlight of the World Cup.
“Naomi Girma is one of a kind,” exclaimed Barrett-O’Keeffe. “On and off the field.”
Girma wanted to “use it [spotlight] and make a difference,” Barrett-O’Keeffe said. “She wanted young people with no access to mental health resources to have the tools.”
Barrett-O’Keefe said she has already contributed 1% of her salary to Football For Her, a non-profit organization working to increase access to football for female-identified and non-binary youth. She now curated videos and read every word on newscasts. According to Barrett-O’Keefe, as she prepared for the biggest tournament of her life, she “was totally down to earth”.
Girma did it all during football stress because she knows “how precious life is,” she said. “I know how many people are suffering. I know the people who smile the most, laugh the loudest, love people the most, and shine the brightest…sometimes they go through things you couldn’t even imagine. “
“We want to help them take on that burden,” she continued. “If we have one mission, it is to make young people feel less alone.” Barrett-O’Keeffe said that within hours of the campaign’s release, people who saw it already felt it.
Girma did all of this because she wanted it to be Meyer’s legacy.
“This World Cup,” she wrote, “is for you, my friend.”