Gus Kenworthy was so scared of outing himself he wouldn’t fall asleep in front of his teammates ‘because I talk in my sleep’
Gay skier Gus Kenworthy has spoken about his experiences with suicidal thoughts before coming out.
Kenworthy explained: “For a lot of my career, my mental health was put on the backburner, and I was really compartmentalising because I was not out of the closet, so I was hiding a huge part of myself and my life, and there was so much time and energy put into harbouring that secret.
“I think it really took a toll on my mental health and I struggled with depression and at moments in my life, thoughts of suicide.
“When I was in the closet, and I was at training camps, I would always make sure I was the last person to fall asleep, because I was scared I was going to out myself in my sleep because I talk in my sleep. There’s just so many little things like that, but it’s exhausting.”
He continued: “I had a hard time being proud of myself, coming to terms with myself and accepting myself, and when I did take that stand and come out, it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my mental health.
“My year after coming out was my best season to date, I felt so liberated with a huge weight off my shoulders, and being able to ski openly and honestly and authentically, sharing my whole self, it made a huge difference.”
Gus Kenworthy explains why LGBT+ mental health is so important.
The athlete added: “I think that mental health is so important, and I’m so glad it’s being talked about more and more frequently. It’s important for everybody, but especially for LGBTQ kids who are at a much higher risk of self-harm and suicide.
“There’s amazing organisations like the Trevor Project that do a lot of work with that, and I think it’s so important.”
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It's #NationalComingOutDay and we’re joining Megan Rapinoe as she sits down with Gus Kenworthy @guskenworthy to discuss the pressures of being an LGBTQ athlete, the stigma of sexuality in sports and what it means to embrace your authentic self. “I’ve talked to so many people that have played sports, and the reason that they stopped is because they felt unwelcome as a gay man. And I think that's the thing we need to change—there's no reason we shouldn't have more representation.” Head to our IGTV for the full conversation with Gus.
Kenworthy added that having a “mental edge” over competitors is critical to performing at the very top of sport.
The pair were speaking as part of A&F Conversations, Rapinoe’s LGBT+ mental health campaign with Abercrombie & Fitch.
Kenworthy, a dual US-UK citizen, revealed last year that he has officially left the US Olympic team to join Team GB ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
If you are in the UK and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email email@example.com. If you are in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.