The Importance of Caring For An Athlete’s Mental Health
Athletes. We span from 2-year-old mini-ballerinas to 5-year-old flag football stars to 60-year-old weekend warriors. We run marathons, play tennis, compete in sports like professional cornhole, and strive to keep high school field hockey records from falling. We are dreamers who aspire to athletic greatness. We are soccer stars, and we are college offensive linemen. We are parents and coaches of athletes competing at all levels.
In recent years, social media has helped to provide a platform for some elite athletes to speak publicly about their mental health struggles. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, Philadelphia Eagles OT Lane Johnson, NBA phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the NFL’s Dak Prescott are just a few who have been open about their mental health. These folks have helped to reduce the stigma of talking about mental health issues and have heroically and vulnerably shared their stories with the world.
Performance issues, anxiety, and the stress of competition and academic success are a few of the issues commonly faced by athletes. Athletes compete against themselves and their peers and their opponents. They strive for better and feel success at just as high a level as they feel failure. Athletes must demand that coaches, schools, and communities place as much emphasis on mental health “rehab” as they do on physical health “rehab.” Sprained ankle? Immediate tests and physical rehab goals are put into place. Depression? Well? Anyone?
The fact is this – depression and anxiety are as prevalent among athletes as are physical concerns. We need to put as much emphasis on mental health counseling and support as we do for athletic training and physical support. It is starting; we are talking about it. We can’t give up. We are competing for our emotional wellness. Game on.