Sunny Choi routinely asks herself a crucial question: "How can I be kind to myself?"

Choi, the first U.S. female breaker to qualify for the Olympics in the Games’ newest sport, has been regularly seeing a therapist that she calls a “game-changer.”

“I talk with her regularly about breaking, because it's so artistic and it requires me to really dig deep and figure out who I am,” Choi said at the Team USA Media Summit in New York. “The better I understand myself, the better I can do out there."

“Most of the work that I do with my therapist is actually not sports psychology. It's mostly about mental health. It's about getting through my personal blocks in life. I go through some depressed cycles. So when that happens, how do I get out of it? How can I be kind to myself and allow myself to take a day or two off and come back stronger?”

In recent years, the sports world has embraced mental health to a greater degree, allowing it to become more of an accepted topic of conversation. When Simone Biles pulled out of the individual all-around competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she cited mental health concerns, posting on Instagram that she felt “the weight of the world on [her] shoulders.”

Similarly, Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open that year, writing about her “long bouts of depression” and “huge waves” of anxiety.

2012 Olympian Kevin Love and 2016 Olympian DeMar Derozan have carried the torch for mental health in the NBA. Serena WilliamsMichael Phelps and other global stars have advocated for normalizing the conversation.

The worldwide message is clear: Mental health is health, and being honest about it is an unequivocal positive.

As today’s U.S. stars gear up for the upcoming Paris Olympics, many are sharply focused on their mental health, bolstered by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s growing dedication.

Here are some of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ thoughts on mental health, in their own words.

Gabby Thomas

Sport: Track and field | Age: 27 | Olympic history: 2020 Tokyo Olympics, two-time medalist (4x100m silver, 200m bronze)

"I don't know if I'm thinking critically about mental health constantly, but I definitely am taking steps to make sure that my mental health is in a good place."

"I've always tackled my running career with that mentality. Running has always been something that has complimented my life. I've always seen myself as Gabby Thomas first. My academics were always kind of coming first. Who I was as a person always came first, and track was just this really great added bonus that I love and I get to do. That adds a really important perspective that all athletes should have, which is that your sport is not who you are."

"I'm pretty mindful of how I consume social media. I like to post. I’m posting almost every day on my socials, but I like to put out the content and not consume too much of it, especially these days, and people have such close access to athletes. There's always some anxiety around it, and I think that's why I choose to handle social media and all the media outlets like I do. I don't like to read anything about myself or watch anything about myself. I really do keep it at arm's length, and maybe someday down the line I'll come back to it and read it. I think it's a little bit of an anxiety response, but it's also just protecting my mental health."

Mary Tucker

Sport: Shooting | Age: 22 | Olympic history: 2020 Tokyo Olympics, silver medalist (mixed air rifle team event)

"Mental health is definitely the biggest thing away from shooting that I'm passionate about. In sports, it's not really talked about. There's a lot of stigma around it. And a lot of people don't like talking about it. But everybody has had problems with mental health. So talking about it more makes people feel less alone and shows the younger generations that it's okay to feel these things. It’s okay to get help. You're not going to get judged. You're not supposed to be super tough. Just take care of yourself more. Do what's right for you, instead of trying to do what you think everyone else will think is right."

"I've struggled with mental health since I was very young. And I've always watched people around me struggle with it. But it was silently struggling. Nobody would ever really get help. Now that I’m in college, it’s been a big eye-opener to me to see that every athlete here has some sort of mental health struggles that they're dealing with. But it doesn't seem like too many people are talking about them, and too many people don’t care about it until it's too late. I've had some people very close to me have suicide affect their lives."

"So I think posting about mental health and saying, "I'm tired right now, and I'm taking a break," or, "This was a really hard time for me, and that's OK." It shows the younger generations that they don't have to go down that path. They can talk about it and be open."

"Some fans have negative reactions when athletes talk about mental health because they want to avoid it. But they also don't realize the toll that sports do take on people. From the outside, people say, 'Oh, these people just do some sport that doesn't really look that difficult on TV, but they get a lot of money and have a lot of sponsors and they seem all happy.'"

We are people, not machines.

"We've got struggles like everyone else. And I think the community of sport would be a lot better if everyone was more accepting of that."

Tara Davis-Woodhall

Sport: Track and field | Age: 24 | Olympic history: 2020 Tokyo Olympics

"When I was at Georgia and Texas, I was in a really dark place mentally. I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I was hitting my lowest time in life and not leaving my room for a week and just being super sad. And I had a lot of people in my corner to help me go through that. I think that's when I realized that we can either continue to be sad in the bed all day, or we can go outside and enjoy a life that we only have one time to live and a life that you never know when it's gone. I honestly did not expect myself to make it to 24 or 25, and I turn 25 next month. I was in a really dark place."

"But I had the choice to become happy. You have the choice to be anyone you want in the world. And that's when I finally saw the light again."

I saw that there is life out there to be lived.

"I have a psychologist had a therapist, which are two different people. My therapist, she allowed me to just spill the beans. I used to not talk about my health. I wouldn't talk about if I was happy or sad. And she was so patient with me. She wouldn't ever push my buttons. She genuinely just took it slow with me. And by that time, I was able to express my feelings. I was able to get things off my chest."

"I actually just spoke to my therapist at the beginning of the week. And she was like, 'Wow, Tara, do you remember when you wanted to quit track in 2020?' And I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I do.' And I actually made a pros and cons list of why I should quit track and why I should stay. And my cons obviously outweighed my pros."

I would have never guessed when sharing my story how many people have told me that they went through the same exact thing. Whether it be an athlete or a normal person. It's a human thing, and everyone goes through mental health. And for someone to put light on it and show that it's OK to be seen or be talked about or felt. That's when I feel like I have a purpose of using my voice. I have a purpose of using my experiences to help others.

Ryan Crouser

Sport: Track and field | Age: 31 | Olympic history: 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist (shot put), 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medalist (shot put)

"Mental health, for me, has been a huge, huge component, especially as I've gotten older. I think it's one spot where I can continue to improve. It's not that I've tapped out physically, but I feel like the games are easier to be had mentally at this point. I wouldn't even call this mental health so much as mental engagement, just trying to be present in the moment."

"I feel like [mental health] is starting to be talked about a little bit more now. But still, athletes are kind of afraid to touch on the mental state post-winning gold. I'll just say that you expect it to be this huge, life-changing moment. And it is, but you spent years and years and years putting that moment on this pedestal that it'll be life-changing. Then, you wake up the next morning, and it's like, "Dang, I'm sore." You're expecting everything be vibrant, all rainbows and sunny. But from a neurological standpoint, you just had the biggest dopamine hit of your entire life, winning that Olympic gold and standing on the podium, so then you're going through a massive, massive dopamine withdrawal. So you think you should be happy. And everyone around you says you should be happy, but your brain has no dopamine. And you're way down here and you just feel bad. And then it's almost like that difference between your perception of reality and what it should be that makes you almost feel even worse. It's like, 'I should be feeling good right now. Why am I not feeling good? I'm letting myself down. I'm letting all these people down that want me to be happy and want to share in this happiness.' It's hard to really say to them, 'I feel terrible. I feel super depressed.'"

Nevin Harrison

Sport: Canoeing | Age: 21 | Olympic history: 2020 Tokyo Olympics, gold medalist (women's C-1 200m)

"I think [mental health] is really important to remember, but at the same time, to not let it take over. I have a sports psychologist who is wonderful. And she's helped me a lot this year. So, I think about mental health and make sure I prioritize it. But I also don't let it consume me. Anxiety, fear and stress are all going to be huge parts of competing at such a high level. But at a certain point, you need to push things down, and you need to turn your brain off. When it's time to race, it's time to race."

"Do I have emotions and feelings going on? Absolutely, yeah. In Tokyo, I just didn't want to talk about it. I was like, 'I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it.' You can ask my mom. On every phone call, it was, 'I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it.' And then as I worked with my sports psychologist, I started to understand it better."

It's OK to talk about it. And I've come to the point where I can talk about it.

Jaleen Roberts

Sport: Track and field | Age: 25 | Olympic history: 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, two-time silver medalist (100m, long jump)

"At first I was trying to take it all on my own, and I knew I didn't have to. I think it is really brave to reach out and speak up when you need help. And that's why I do what I do with my mental health advocacy. I want other athletes to know that it's okay to struggle."

It's OK to reach out and speak up. 

"Either athletes put this stigma upon themselves, or it's placed on us by society. And we put ourselves on this pedestal because of how other people view us, so we think we have to be the superheroes that deal with everything on our own. And we can't just have a bad day because we're doing this incredible thing. But that's not true."

"I don't want another athlete getting to the point where they feel like they have to end their life when they're alone in their struggles. As athletes, we have such a broad community. You have your coaches, your medical staff, your strength trainers, nutritionists. There are so many people that we can lean on, and it just takes one person for us to feel comfortable going to, or to lead us in the right direction to get help."

Ilona Maher

Sport: Rugby | Age: 27 | Olympic history: 2020 Tokyo Olympics

"It's been enlightening just to try to break down the barriers of what people view athletes as. We put athletes on a pedestal and Olympians on pedestals as indestructible and really strong. But athletes are human, as you saw in the Tokyo Olympics with Simone Biles and the humanity that she showed us. Here's the best gymnast in the world, who's just so amazing at what she does, and she’s having bad days."

"For me, it's just like showing how human we are. And I do that not only through talking about mental health and the sad days, but also being authentic. That can really resonate and just show our relatability and humanity."