“It breaks my heart to withdraw from the 2018 U.S. championships. I am still undergoing treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. I have not had adequate training time in order to perform at the level at which I want to. It pains me to not compete in this Olympic season, but I know it’s for the best. I wish everyone the best of luck and will be cheering you all on. I want to thank everyone for the ongoing love and support. It means the world to me.”
These words were part of the statement that figure skater Gracie Gold wrote to her team in November when she chose not to take part in the series of competitions that lead up to the Olympics.
This was the first time Gold had explicitly shared her mental illnesses with her team, and the world. In 2016, Gold discussed her weight with reporters after performing poorly at Skate America.
"You don't often see — there aren't that many — you just don't see overweight figure skaters for a reason,” she said. “It's just something I've struggled with this whole year and in previous seasons," she said in front of a group of journalists. "It's something that I am addressing, but it's obviously not where it should be for this caliber of competition."
When a reporter told Gold that she was not overweight, Gold thanked them and replied, “It’s a lean body sport, and it’s just not what I have currently.”
This was just one of many difficult moments for Gold during the 2016-17 season. Before her official statement in November, Gold announced her decision to take time off in September. During her announcement, she said she was seeking out professional help due to issues on and off the ice. It was only during her November statement that she shared those struggles were anxiety, depression and an eating disorder.
Christopher D. Bojrab, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist and president of Indiana Health Group. He serves on the board of directors of the Indiana Medical Society and is past president of Indiana Psychiatric Society. Bojrab is also a consultant to the Indianapolis Colts and team psychiatrist for the Indiana Pacers.
“I applaud Gracie Gold’s willingness to share her story with the public. Brave decisions like this help to continue the fight against the stigma of having and seeking treatment for mental health conditions,” Bojrab says. “Although the situation is improving, it is sad and shocking that there still exists any degree of stigma for these types of medical conditions. Mental health issues affect nearly 20% of adults from every walk of life imaginable, including a number of professional athletes whom I treat. We are lucky to live in a time when our understanding of these medical conditions, as well as our ability to treat them, are advancing at an accelerating pace. With access to exciting new technologies such as such as the Genecept Assay, which is one of the technologies we use in our office, we are beginning to gain new insights into the development of more personalized approaches to medical care, our treatments should continue to become better, safer and more cost effective.”
There is still stigma attached to each disorder that can make it challenging to seek help, especially on a national stage.
In 2017, Russian figure skating star Yulia Lipnitskaya’s announced her early retirement after undergoing treatment for anorexia. Her announcement, along with Gold’s statement, has sparked conversation in the figure skating world about eating disorders. In fact, other figure skating legends have admitted that eating disorders are a problem in the sport and have applauded Gold’s and Lipnitskaya’s bravery.
Before her challenging 2016-17 season, Gold won the bronze in a team event in Sochi. She also won gold at the 2014 and 2016 national championships, and placed fourth at two World Championships in 2015 and 2016.
Since those victories, Gold has emerged as a champion of another sort — a mental health advocate. After publicly acknowledging her own struggles, she may be more than an inspiration for figure skating fans, but also for people with mental health issues who are suffering in silence.
Learn more about Gracie’s story here.