September 13, 2023

Mental health champion: A mission inspired by personal loss

San Diego Wave Fútbol Club star defender Naomi Girma, Kaiser Permanente sports ambassador, commits to a lifesaving initiative on mental health.

Destigmatizing mental health and providing tools helps young people cope with depression, anxiety, and stress.

Naomi Girma, a star defender for National Women’s Soccer League’s San Diego Wave Fútbol Club and the first female sports ambassador for Kaiser Permanente, is as passionate about mental health awareness as she is about the game she loves. Her passion stems from the loss of her friend and former co-captain at Stanford University, Katie Meyer, who took her own life at 22 in spring 2022. For Girma, this profound loss became a catalyst for mental health awareness and lifesaving conversations.

“You touched so many people’s lives in just 22 years,” Girma recently penned in a heartfelt tribute to her friend. “You wanted to change the world more than anyone I’ve ever known. So, we’re going to make sure that we carry on your legacy. We’re going to make sure that your light never goes out.”

Giving voice to women and youth

“Mental health is near and dear to my heart, and this opportunity will allow my voice to reach a greater audience, specifically the women and youth of San Diego,” Girma said when Kaiser Permanente announced her sports ambassadorship.

Girma’s role as a Kaiser Permanente sports ambassador entails more than promoting wellness; women and youth empowerment; and equity, inclusion, and diversity; it is about carrying the light of her friend and inspiring hope. She is committed to using her platform to uplift the San Diego community and surrounding cities, including providing hope and support to people experiencing mental health challenges.

Through the partnership with SD Wave, Kaiser Permanente is extending support for mental health awareness and stigma elimination to new communities and audiences.

A mission to save lives

During the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Girma and her teammates launched a mental health initiative with Common Goal targeting young and college athletes. It aims to destigmatize mental health and provide tools to cope with depression, anxiety, and stress.

“We know how important it is to destigmatize the conversation around mental health, especially for the millions of young people around the country who will be watching this World Cup,” Girma wrote. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people age 10 to 34.

‘Feel less alone’

“We know first hand how many people, especially student athletes, are struggling in silence, and we want to use our platform in this huge moment for something bigger than soccer,” Girma wrote. “If we have one mission, it’s for young people to feel less alone.”

People who have suicidal thoughts often do not seek assistance because they feel helpless, hopeless, or unworthy. Encourage them to reach out to trusted friends and family members. Learn more, including the warning signs of suicide.

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health or substance abuse crisis, or any other type of emotional distress, please seek immediate assistance. Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).