Athletes and mental illness

Mental health within athletics

Athletes, while exceling at a physically difficult task and/or having celebrity status, are not immune to mental health disorders. In actuality, they may be more likely to suffer from certain mental health disorders because of the circumstances that they regularly endure, the multiple physical and situational traumas they sustain, and their unique stressors. Recently, celebrity athletes have publicly disclosed that they have been diagnosed with mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder (Royce White), and dissociate identity disorder (Hershel Walker). Eating disorders, depression, and substance abuse disorders are also very common among the athletic population. Within sport it is common for coaches, managers, athletic directors etc. to allow these issues to go unaddressed (which by the way is neglect). This is a result of these stakeholders not wanting to compromise their image, political reasons, or wanting the athlete to “man up” to their problem. In reality serious mental health disorders such as anxiety, phobias, and DID are not disorders that individuals can address on their own, they require professional help. If anyone you know may be suffering from a mental health disorder, show your unconditional support, and gently help them in their contemplation of receiving treatment.

In addition, athletes are human beings, just like you and me. Just because they can dunk a basketball or throw a football does not make them God like. They suffer from disease, psychological and physical, and should receive the care and treatment they need and deserve without retribution. Royce White’s career has suffered as a result of him speaking out, and his team refusing to help him receive treatment (FYI his phobia is simple and quick to treat) did not help his case. But I believe he is brave for what he did, and it is my hopes that soon the realm of sport will start taking ownership of helping their players not only with physical injuries but psychological ones as well.

Nelson Mandela was a tremendous world influence and advocate, his 95 years on this earth were well spent and his work will continue to resonate for years to come. So I leave you with a quote from him, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I believe that through education, and advocacy, the athletic realm can be transformed into a better, more healthy place. This blog is not meant to be just for your own educational value, but to also share it, spread it and do good with it. In Nelson Mandela’s spirit of beliefs and actions, no person should suffer, athletes included.

Namaste friends

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