Elite Athletes Combating Mental Health Essay Example


Depression is an affective mental illness affecting almost 6.7% of today’s adult population especially the age group of 13-25 years old, in a 12-month period. There are more than 7-8 million athletes involved in various competitive sports. The past studies suggesting that athletes are immune to depression and other mental illness have come under scrutiny by sports medicine providers. Due to the high prevalence rate in certain age groups and a large denominator pool of athletes, it is seen that athletes are more susceptible to stress, depression, social anxiety, and alcohol use than non-athletes.

The recent number of suicidal cases among former or current athletes have heightened focused discussion and media attention to the mental health of athletes. According to studies, it is seen that the major cause of athletic depression is due to a sports injury or concussions, Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury, Over-training Syndrome (OTS), career termination, and catastrophic athletic performance. It is also seen female athletes face more depression due to lack of social support than male athletes. Research showed that almost 50% of athletes suffer from depression once in their lifetime.

Sports Injury or Concussions and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ALC) Injury:-                                                     Higher level of depression has been noticed in players with sports concussions and ALC injuries. It was also reported that depression diagnosis increases with an increase in the number of concussions. Indeed, ALC injured athletes suffer greater depression vulnerability for a longer period. Researchers stated that screening and intervention should be more focused on athletes with ALC injuries and concussions.

Career Termination:-                                                                                                                                                                                    

Career termination marks a significant transition between interpersonal relationships, roles, and daily life in athletes. Though for some individuals, this transition occurs with ease while finding new career opportunities, some athletes face major depression during this transition especially if it’s an involuntary termination is due to injury or loss of connection with team members. During this period, some athletes are associated with maladaptive coping strategies, depression, anxiety, increased hospitality, anger, and substance abuse. Research also states that athletes with higher athletic identity face more emotional and social adjustment after retirement. 

Performance:-

Elite athletes often face major depression when they experience a decline in their athletic performance that is not up to their expectations. This leads to negative self-evaluation and perception, behavioral deactivation, feeling of helplessness or hopelessness along with depression symptoms. The over-training syndrome also causes psychological and physiological disturbances, along with a decrease in athletic performance. Constant pressure from competitive activities as well as the expectation from coaches, teammates, society, and families leads to depression symptoms in athletes throughout their careers.

Often the athletes are afraid to talk about their depression as they are concerned that their coach might see their scores or imagined reactions to admitting being depressed. Hence, they often portray themselves as someone who is psychologically strong and ready for the next competition. Sports medicine, athlete care networks, and professional coaches needs to be aware of the mental health of the athletes. It is of utter importance to ensure athletes that even for them “It’s Ok to Not Be Ok”. 

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