Mental Health: Athletes are Human too!
Most of us seem to view athletes as these unbreakable and unstoppable beings who are immune to every affliction that us mere mortals struggle with daily – I mean, no way do they ever get ill…and the idea that they suffer with mental health problems is just ridiculous…right?
To the outside world (and definitely to their competitors) these are some of the most self-assured and confident people on earth – but what many of us overlook is that, in the end, athletes are just people, and they’re mostly young people who are under tremendous pressure to be continuously improving and achieving perfection.
The Mental Health charity Mind, have recently commissioned a study to look into how sports’ governing bodies and players’ organisations currently respond to, manage and prevent mental ill health amongst athletes.
Mind have said “Everybody has mental health which, like physical health, can change throughout our lives. One in four people in the UK will be affected by mental illness in any year, the most common being depression and anxiety. So it should come as no surprise that professional sportspeople will face these issues too”
Until very recently, Mental Health was a subject which was rarely spoken about in the same breath as elite sportsman, but since the tragic suicide of GB snowboarder Ellie Soutter, the issue has begun to open up for discussion.
In recent years, more and more ex-athletes have been speaking far more freely about their experiences, but the main issue is getting current athletes to open up.
When athletes feel so much pressure to play the part of the ‘unbreakable and ever-confident superhuman’, they don’t want to share that they’re struggling as they feel it’s like admitting that you have a weakness. It often seems to athletes like they’re expected not to have any mental health issues as there really isn’t any support in place for them if they do…after all, if an athlete gets an injury, they know they have a team around them to arrange treatment and rehabilitation, but if they are struggling with their mental health, few in the team of their support staff will have any idea how to deal with it.
It’s clear that it is a real problem that needs to be addressed, because no one should feel they have to deal with mental health problems alone.
We’re pleased that UK Sport are actively working with organisations like Mind to help put better support in place for athletes, and the more we talk about it, the easier it becomes for everyone to share how they’re feeling.
For any of our athletes who are reading this and are struggling at all with mental ill health, please get in contact with us as we can offer support through our Athlete Support Programme.