The Importance of Mental Health: Pro Athletes Opening Up

Many sports figures have been speaking out about their mental health struggles recently, and for good reason. While often seen as superhuman, professional athletes sharing their mental health struggles helps normalize the fact that many Americans are also challenged by mental illness and paves the way for people to seek help.

Being Strong Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Struggle

Justin Turner of the LA Dodgers has talked openly about a psychologist he looks up to as well as being open to discussing mental health with his teammates.¹ Recently we’ve seen Simone Biles pulling out of events at the Olympics, and Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open, as well as Michael Phelps going public about his struggles with depression.² Drew Robinson of the SF Giants has been very open about his battle with depression and even his suicide attempt.³ Darius Leonard, the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, has shared his experience with anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, and weight loss after the death of his brother.4

Prioritizing their mental health sometimes means not performing when they are expected to and reaching out for help. These athletes are all paving the way towards destigmatizing mental health and encouraging everyone to get the help they need.

The LA Dodgers organization even started a new campaign called “Playing for Keeps” in order to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and to help educate fans about resources that are available.5 While the NFL has launched a mental health and wellness video series featuring football legend Michael Robinson, highlighting the need for compassion and patience. The series also features active players Solomon Thomas discussing his experience with depression and anxiety after the death of his sister, Joey Bosa explaining how he used to only focus on physical well-being, and Ali Marpet relaying how he now prioritizes the need for a support system.6

Statistics for 2019 showed that 20.6% of American adults experienced mental illness.7 That is over 50 million people! Yet somehow mental health issues still remain something that many people keep quiet about or don’t even know they have.

What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

Unlike a physical illness, there is no obvious outward sign of mental illness. It doesn’t show up on a blood test, and it can’t be seen from the outside. Often people who struggle with mental health believe that they just have to “try harder” or change some exterior part of their life like getting a new job or moving to a new town.

It’s important to know what to be on the lookout for so that you or your loved one can get help as soon as possible.

Some of the emotional and psychological signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health include:

  • A noticeable decrease or increase in energy
  • Pulling away from people
  • Lack of interest in activities used to bring joy and satisfaction
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Significant and unusual mood changes
  • Thoughts of harming oneself or others
  • Bouts of confusion, nervousness, or forgetfulness
  • Large increase in damaging habits
  • New substance abuse issues
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping much more than usual

Mental health can change over time and throughout a person’s life. Stress, such as job demands, caring for family members, illness, and other factors can increase the likelihood of mental health challenges. Even someone who always “has it all together” can struggle at times.

It’s important to check in with a professional in mental health services if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. If you know someone who appears to be struggling with their mental health don’t be afraid to reach out and check in. Sometimes people on the outside can notice changes in how someone feels and acts before the person experiencing them is able to identify it themselves.

Why Is Mental Health Important?

One of the ways to describe being mentally healthy is being in a condition where a person’s mental performance supports productive functioning, healthy relationships with others, and being able to adapt to life’s changes and challenges.8 Remember the statistic stated earlier? A fifth of the population of the US has experienced mental illness, so that means it’s a pretty normal part of life.

Life naturally comes with ups and downs, challenges and traumas. While Americans tend to focus on their physical health, we need to understand that that also includes our emotional health.

Many people are reluctant to address sensitive issues and may even try to ignore the personal suffering of themselves and others. If we can normalize mental health issues people will be able to seek help more easily.

The state of our mental health determines how we handle our physical health as well. Feeling down, anxious, distracted, or unmotivated will interfere with our ability to take care of ourselves. It’s hard to have the motivation to eat right, exercise, and make healthy choices when struggling with mental health conditions.

The fact that some of our most popular sports figures are opening up about their own mental health struggles means we can too.

Your Mental Health Care

If you or someone you love seems to be suffering from mental health problems or having trouble handling the stresses of everyday life, be sure to reach out and get some help and look into iop treatment or php treatment programs. The importance of good mental health can’t be overstated.

Contact us or learn more about our mental health services. Mental health treatment can help you create a healthy and productive life. Don’t delay in reaching out for treatment, it can make all the difference.