“Turns out, I truly needed the help.”

#BeleafInWomen Feature: 2020 Olympic Alternate Justina Di Stasio shares her experience with anxiety. 

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Pictured: Justina Di Stasio (left) placed second during the 2019 Olympic Trials, securing her spot as an alternate for the 2020 Olympics. Image by JustOneMoreMomentSport.

Justina Di Stasio, Canadian Freestyle Wrestler, is supporting our #BeLeafInWomen Campaign in partnership with Maple (Re)Leaf campaign by sharing her experiences with anxiety and learning the importance of prioritizing mental health:

My name is Justina Di Stasio. I am a 28 year old Canadian Freestyle Wrestler of Indigenous (Cree) and Italian descent living and training in BC. I am a 2020 Olympic Alternate and a 2018 World Champion, with the goal of being an Olympian in 2024. 

Focusing on mental health became a priority for me during the Olympic Trials in December, 2019. I felt like I needed to win, and the fear of failure was all I thought about. I didn’t know it at the time, but my anxiety was taking over.

Normally, a little bit of performance anxiety helps me prepare and focus, but this time it was different – the pressure was overwhelming and I couldn’t find a way to calm down.

I didn’t make the Olympic team, but earned a position as an Olympic Alternate by placing second. Watching back the final matches of trials, I looked too scared to make a mistake. I felt like I stood out there for two matches and wasted the opportunity. 

I knew I needed to cope with falling short of my goal in a healthy way, but I was scared to admit that I needed help.

I kept questioning why I felt so low and guilty for feeling bad when things in my life were ‘good’. My best friend pushed me in the right direction by saying “don’t think that you’re too good for therapy”. I had thought that if I went to therapy I might be taking the resource away from someone else who truly needed help. Turns out, I truly needed the help!

In January 2020, I started therapy for my anxiety thanks to support provided by Wrestling Canada. Now, almost a year and half later, I have more great days than bad days, and those closest to me can see the difference.

It’s a constant process, and it’s hard to navigate but it is possible to come out the other side of anxiety and feel better.

“Everyone deserves access to mental health support. I was lucky to talk to the right people, find the right help, and have the patience of those around me as I figured out how to feel like myself again, but not everyone has that privilege.”

It’s not just elite athletes like Justina who are subject to unique mental health stressors. Women are almost twice as likely as men to develop an anxiety disorder and a recent study found that seven out of 10 Canadian women are experiencing more anxiety, depression, fatigue and isolation because of the increase in unpaid care work they are expected to perform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These stats are only further exacerbated for Indigenous women, Black women, other racialized minorities and gender diverse individuals. 

Invest in the movement to make a difference.

With a minimum $30 donation, you can show your commitment to #BeLeafInWomen through the purchase of a Maple Re(Leaf) artistic leaf for yourself or in honour of someone you care for.

Your Leaf(s) will be planted in a local art installation on October 10 for World Mental Health Day, to make a statement about the communities collective support for women’s mental health in BC.

Partial proceeds will be invested in BC Women’s Health Foundation’s $4.5 million Reproductive Mental Health Campaign to support the creation of accessible women’s mental health treatments.

If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, you can find resources (for those in BC) on page 11 of our Spotlight on Women’s Mental Health Report

Read More #BeLeafInWomen features on our Instagram channel:

BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared is intended to educate, inform, and point readers to credible sources. It is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. 

If you are struggling with your mental health, or concerned about someone else, call the BC Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number). It’s free and available 24 hours a day. If you prefer to access help and support via email, contact bcpartners@heretohelp.bc.ca.