Athletes over the years have been seen as a picture of strength and resilience. Their ability to stay focused on the pitch and win events is something motivational speakers have beautifully crafted into words and scenarios while encouraging people. This picture may appear perfect on the outside where physical strength is put to test. But when the mental health and total wellbeing of an athlete are considered, it is not much of an ‘aspire to perspire’ cliché.
Athletes not only go through pressure but are also at risk of developing mental health symptoms and disorders. A lot of athletes are of the opinion that being mentally tough equals never breaking down or showing any form of weakness at critical times. This, over time cumulates when the athlete doesn’t seek help and becomes disastrous. There are cases of athletes bowing to their symptoms thereby having their performance affected adversely.
Over the years, research has been funded to get a solution to this prevailing monster. One of the organizations in the forefront of such research is the International Olympic Committee through the recent Expert Consensus Statement on mental health in elite athletes. A number of analysis and recommendations which would help in the treatment of complex mental disorders such as bipolar and eating disorders is currently underway. One of such recommendations is to note how elite sports in its broadness is a major contributor to athlete mental health difficulties and a facilitator of their mediations.
Mental health cannot be overlooked amongst athletes. The environment and all-round development shape the emotional, motor and social aspects of the brain. Time and energy put into training can result in tilting the balance of some other life skills that an athlete should have thereby putting them on a disadvantage socially.
Some common disorders that come with these are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, adjustment disorders etc. In addition to these, injury or pain can lead to a psychosomatic situation. The public needs to understand that beyond the game, beyond the signing of autographs and the posing in front of paparazzi, there’s a battle going inside of the athlete. Injury, recovery, transition and wrapping up of a rather illustrious career can weigh an athlete down mentally and emotionally leading to substance abuse. Suicide cannot be ruled out too.
It is important to note that untreated mental health challenges lead to undue suffering, hampers positive growth and balance in life. Early recognition of symptoms and commencement of treatment helps keep mental health and emotional well-being in check.