Ronda Rousey suffered a devastating loss to competitor Holly Holm in November. The once-undefeated Rousey was knocked out in the second round of her fight with Holm, causing her to lose her belt.
The loss came as a shock to sports fans, and many worried Rousey would never recover. Rousey disappeared from the public eye as she took time to mentally and physically recover.
On February 16th, Rousey made an appearance on Ellen Degeneres’ show. The usually light-hearted talk show took a dark turn when Rousey revealed that following her loss, she had thoughts of suicide. She stated that her boyfriend, Travis Browne, also a UFC fighter, was the one who got her through her suicidal thoughts.
Following her revelation, the internet wasted no time criticizing Rousey. Many were asking why this woman who seemingly had everything would want to harm herself. Despite her loss, Rousey still has fame, fortune and incredible talent, so many felt that it was inappropriate for her to have these feelings.
The criticism that followed Rousey’s admission shows the blatant ignorance surrounding mental health and suicide. If she had actually harmed herself, the same people would be mourning her loss. When Robin Williams died of an apparent suicide this past year, many were heart-broken that someone who brought so much joy to others had suffered in silence. So why aren’t we giving Rousey the same respect?
Athletes are expected to be mentally tough, but the fact that Rousey’s depression has been brushed off by many as “poor sportsmanship” proves that there is a huge misunderstanding of the kind of people who suffer from mental illness or suicidal thoughts.
For Rousey, her title as the Women’s Bantamweight Champion was her entire identity. Some may call it cockiness, but that title was everything that defined Rousey as a fighter. Any time someone suffers a loss that causes their entire identity to come to question, it can be a very tough thing to get over, and athletes are no exception to that.
In my opinion, Rousey’s admission was extremely brave. There are so many people who battle depression and suicidal thoughts. To have someone like Rousey openly admit to experiencing these human emotions can be very empowering for us commoners. Imagine a high school-aged girl who has battled these feelings, hearing someone with such stature admit to feeling those things too. That has to be extremely refreshing to know that you’re not the only person to feel that way, and that no matter how big you get, it’s okay to feel those kinds of things. If someone who suffered such an enormous loss with the whole world watching her can overcome those emotions, who says the average person can’t pull through?
Perhaps it’s true that the bigger you are, the harder you fall. In a time of such devastation and healing, it’s important to lift Rousey up as sports fans, instead of criticizing her for being a normal human being.