Podcast: Talking Mental Health, COVID-19 in Sports Media

Sports media can be a high pressure work environment where people are encouraged to sacrifice their own mental health in order to succeed. Matt Desmond and Alec Palmer are two sports media professionals who decided to talk more freely about mental health in the industry, using digital tools to do so. 

Desmond, who works for the Oakland Athletics, and Palmer, who works for Momentum, a company that connects athletes with digital storytellers to show life off the field, have both seen mental health issues firsthand in the sports industry. Desmond has been in the industry for over 10 years, and about three years ago created the Sports Creative Community, a community hosted on Slack that acts as a safe space for sports creatives to discuss a wide range of issues around work in sports media. The community currently has more than 4,000 members.

During COVID-19, Desmond started holding virtual happy hours over Zoom for members in the Slack group to stay connected and talk about issues, primarily how to stay busy and productive during a pandemic. 

Desmond found that in these virtual meetings, members brought up a lot of important, real-world issues. He wanted to host a happy hour that focused solely on mental health awareness and its role in the sports industry because he felt many people did not know how to deal with this issue within their programs.  

He recruited Palmer, who has had his own battles with mental health, to help lead the discussion about this issue. Since Palmer is in a senior position at Momentum, director of marketing, Desmond wanted to get his perspective on how to better structure the workplace for individuals with mental illness. 

Desmond recruited Palmer to help him host a mental health happy hour (Credit: Alec Palmer).

Desmond and Palmer hosted their Zoom happy hour on June 22 and it attracted over 50 participants. 

“It was a very touching opportunity to see the impact that the session was able to give to people who may not feel comfortable talking about it prior to that,” Desmond said.

In this podcast, both Palmer and Desmond were able to talk extensively about their journeys with mental health and the stresses of the industry, while also soliciting possible solutions from members of the Slack group. They also touched on how COVID-19 has affected both mental wellness in sports media and the stresses of economic uncertainty.

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