Athlete Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated that nearly one in five American adults, aged 18 and over, lives with a mental illness.  Athletes, at any level, are not exempt, but they are less likely to seek out help. This is often due to the social stigma regarding mental health, concern that treatment denotes weakness, or the athlete’s belief that they can conquer mental illness without assistance (Baum, 2003; Glick & Horsfall, 2005).  Athletes face unique stressors that may make them particularly susceptible to psychological distress.  Stressors unique to athletes that may trigger or worsen psychological distress include risk of injury, financial responsibilities, transition/adjustment issues, performance pressure, media scrutiny, job insecurity, personal/family relationships, sports-relationship issues, and race and sociocultural factors.  Some specific indicators an athlete may be struggling, include:

  • Flat, irritable, or sad mood
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Changes in personality/behavior compared with how he or she normally acts
  • Decreased interest in normally enjoyed activities
  • Substance abuse
  • Anger outbursts
  • Increased risk taking behaviors
  • Anxiety/Panic Attacks

If you are struggling with any of these indicators, you do not have to suffer in silence.  You are not alone!  Over the last few years multiple athletes have spoken up about their battles with mental health as described in the USA Today article, "When athletes share their battles with mental illness".

Asking for help does not make you weak.  There is help for you to get better, learn new skills, and reach your full potential.

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Athlete Mental Health Awareness: The Invisible Opponent


30% of student-athletes reported depression and almost half reported anxiety. NCAA Sport Science Institute, 2017

University of Michigan's Athletes Connected
“You don’t have to be sick in order to get better”

Many athletes hide their pain as they adhere to the stigma that they have to be mentally tough, keeping their feelings to themselves.

Despite successes in their sport, some athletes report feeling alone and overwhelmed with feelings of emptiness.

Athletes are humans first and just as susceptible to mental illness.

Some young athletes that adopt an exclusively athletic identity, attached to their performance, can be susceptible to potential mental health issues.

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