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Black Athletes Breaking Barriers and Embracing Mental Health: Byron Perkins

As we celebrate Black History Month, we want to highlight Byron Perkins for his openness about his mental health journey.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we want to highlight incredible Black athletes who’ve made their mark with their skills and their honesty about their lives and mental health journeys.

These athletes, from different sports, are open about who they truly are, showing their strengths and challenges. Their stories teach us important lessons.

They remind us that life can be tough for anyone, no matter who you are. It’s okay not to have everything go smoothly all the time.

They stress the importance of seeking help when it comes to mental health, showing that it’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

They also show us how speaking up and standing for what you believe in can make a positive impact on the world.

Why we’re celebrating Byron Perkins

Byron Perkins is being celebrated for his brave decision to come out as a gay male athlete, particularly within the context of an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). He has now also declared himself for the 2024 NFL Draft.

Perkins said his motivation for coming out was to shed the mask he was wearing and now to serve a role model for other Black gay male athletes who may be struggling with their identity.

“Recently I’ve been able to figure out that I haven’t been fully happy because everyone didn’t know who I was. Authenticity is everything to me.”

Byron Perkins

He recognizes the need for representation and support within the Black gay community, especially at HBCUs, where LGBTQI+ issues can be perceived as taboo.

“There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HBCU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.”

Byron Perkins

His Mental Health Journey

Byron Perkins has been candid about his mental health journey. He has revealed that he often appeared upset because he was wearing a mask, concealing his true self. However, Byron explained how this mask was ‘destroyed’ when he decided to come out as gay to the sporting community.

“I’m gay, let it be known that this is not a ‘decision’ or a ‘choice.’ Yes, this is who I am, this is who I’ve been, and this is who I’m going to be,” he added. “Simply put, I am who I am.”

Byron Perkins

Byron Perkins made history when he became the first openly gay football player at an HBCU. #beyondlimits #pride #hbcu #football #collegefootball #pridemonth #sportstok

♬ original sound – We Need To Talk

He says his journey has been made easier by the support of his mother and his football team. The fact that his teammates didn’t change how they acted in the locker room, meant everything to him.

Perkins understands the importance of mental health, particularly for athletes who face additional pressures due to their identity. Which is why he says nobody should ever yield to the pressures until they are ready.

He advocates for better mental health resources and support for athletes and calls on universities and colleges to provide comprehensive assistance beyond just athletic performance.

We hope these stories inspire you, just like these athletes inspire us. Remember, you’re not alone in your journey. With determination and resilience, you can overcome anything.

‘Head in the Game’ is here to help support young peoples mental health. To learn more about the ‘Head in the Game’ program click here. Young people can also explore resources to support their mental wellbeing by clicking here.