#MentalHealthAwareness: A Game-Changer for Athletes

by | May 18, 2022

Athletes across the globe are accelerating the growing acceptance and decreasing stigma for mental health.

In recent times, athletes have been using their platforms to voice out their mental health issues and have used the spotlight to say something few world-famous athletes have ever dared to say out loud: “I’m not okay; I need to step away from the game and focus on my mental health.”

Why have athletes been so afraid to speak out? Well, previously they have been told to stifle their emotions and toughen up because they cannot look weak in front of the world, and they need to protect the stability of their careers.

This kind of response then leaves an athlete in a position where they continue to push on, suppress their feelings and emotions to a point where their career suffers – leading to added pressure because results and the glory days of winning are a thing of the past.

Click here to read on Netball star Jo Prins tackling mental health

One aspect we must all remember, just as much as one’s physical prowess is valued on the pitch or on the court, mental strength is equally, if not even more important.

An athlete’s ability to navigate high pressure moments is perhaps their most crucial asset, and one that’s tested more often than not. So, maintaining a sense of composure and calmness is often what separates champions from the rest of the field.

If mental strength is a defining trait of a champion, what happens when an athlete’s struggle with anxiety and depression disrupts their path to victory?

They then find themselves dealing with stress, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, substance abuse and loss of relationships which negatively impacts their performance.

Making Mental Health a Priority

The solution to dealing with mental health issues among athletes is that open and honest conversations need to become a priority.

According to international Sports Psychologist, Dr Mattew Sacco: “Athletes are being told that mental health is a priority and then they’re not being supported.

“It gives a mixed message. We’re still swimming upstream against this idea that mental health is not perceived as a whole to be as important as physical health problems.”

However, with prominent athletes leading by example sharing their experiences, it has drawn more attention to the topic.

The ongoing discussion started by these influential voices has broadened our understanding of mental health issues.

For young athletes, in particular, starting this conversation is critical to building a culture where it’s okay to talk about the mental health aspect of competition.

For more on the topic of mental health, click on the image below to watch what Counselling Psychologist, Ashleigh Yaman had to say in our #gsportLive session on YouTube on Monday, 16 May 2022:

 

 

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