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Have We Forgotten About Mental Health in Sports?


It’s a discussion that no one wants to have, but everyone comes out about when its ugly head rears itself. Since the turn of the sports industry, athletes have been forced to balance a job that places them in the limelight, as well as a home life. As far as a social life goes, they don’t always exist, because wherever these athletes go, there will always be someone ready to leak to the media about any indiscretion.

This doesn’t relate to just professional athletes either, with collegiate athletes struggling to uphold the expectations of playing at their best, while taking classes and working to support themselves.

Mental health is not something that we joke around with. It is also something that we often ignore, but it’s often too late. A great example of this would involve Tyler Hilinski, the Washington State quarterback who took his own life just last month. He was meant to take over the starting role for the 2018-19 season, but not enough attention was given to the smaller details of his life.

Another example would be Jarrod Bannister. Although not many individuals outside of the track and field community will know of him, he was a javelin thrower from Australia who took his life at the age of 33. He was a Commonwealth Games winner, an Olympic finalist, and currently holds the Australian record.

The third example would be Jeret Peterson, a silver medalist in the 2010 Winter Olympics, after competing in both 2002 and 2006 prior. He experienced issues with alcohol and depression, which led to his arrest and suicide in 2011.

As a sporting community, we should know by now that this is a topic that needs to be brought to the forefront. It isn’t something that we can just leave in the dust any longer. Athletes are some of the most physically gifted individuals that grace this world, and yet a large handful do not receive the support they need.

Take, for example, this US filmmaker who goes on record to call athletes “some of the dumbest people on the planet”. Never mind the fact that collegiate athletes study full-time and somehow find time to practice multiple times a day. In addition, we won’t mention the fact that professional athletes go through the same process, and are expected to be at their best every game because of the money in the industry.

This is the part I take that particular tweet to heart. I know multiple athletes at the same four-year institution I currently compete at who are undergoing engineering degrees. A solid chunk of those athletes have a GPA over a 3.50. These athletes are in the gym for hours every day, yet find the time to balance classes, practice, a social life, etc.

The main aspect that fans care about is whether their team wins at the end of the day. A lot of fans don’t care if a bench player on Golden State gets hurt, and that’s because they would rather see Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant win. That very same bench player may go down a dark path, which can often spiral into a limitless number of negative outcomes.

Both male and female athletes all over the world struggle, and athletes are no exception.

At the end of the day, I’ve known individuals who have fought and lost their fight, and it affects so more than we think. If you are someone who struggles with depression, don’t let it get to the point of no return.

If you or someone you know ever needs support, the US/UK/Australian help line numbers are below.

US Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

UK Samaritans Hotline – 116 123

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

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