Mental health has been a huge topic that always remains in the back of everyone’s minds. In the past month, however, people have been talking about mental health more and more due to the deaths of multiple college athletes that have committed suicide. Even more recently, college athletes have been outspoken about their mental health. It is important to check in on your friends and your teammates to make sure they are doing okay.
Approximately one in five adults lives with a mental health condition, according to Athletes for Hope. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also reported that 30 percent of female college athletes and 25 percent of male college athletes report having anxiety, but only 10 percent who know they have anxiety or another condition will seek help.
Professionally, about 35 percent of athletes have come forward and spoken about their mental health. These conditions can manifest themselves in many ways, such as stress, burnout, eating disorders, or depression and anxiety.
We have seen professional athletes put their mental health first in more recent times. Simone Biles withdrew from the team final competition at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Naomi Osaka stepped away from competing at Wimbledon in 2021. Christen Press from the U.S Women’s National Soccer Team has taken time off to focus on her mental health too.
These athletes are human, and competing constantly with expectations to win can take a toll on them. What happens when they lose? Thousands of people flood their Instagrams and other social media with comments that they suck and should quit, and reporters ask questions in press conferences like “what could you have done differently?” It's tough to be an athlete in any capacity and the stigma around mental health doesn’t make it any easier.
“I feel like, for me, recently, when I win, I don’t feel happy, I feel more like a relief,” Osaka said after her loss at the Tokyo Olympics. “And then, when I lose, I feel very sad. And I don’t think that’s normal. Well, basically, I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.”
As we remember those who have lost the battle with mental health, we can also be hopeful about the future. With schools and teams adding sports psychologists to their staff, administrations learning how to better support their athletes, and with professional athletes being so vocal about what they struggle with, these conversations will become more normal and hopefully create some changes.
Photo credit: Shutterstock