Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health in Sports

Why Athletes Should Have a Better Support System

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health in Sports

Autumn Anderson , Staff Writer

Olympic Athlete Michael Phelps discusses mental health in the documentary “The Weight of Gold,” explaining the impact of suicidal thoughts. In an interview with Insider, Michael Phelps saidFor those who are struggling with mental health, know you’re not alone: There are days where I want to curl up into a ball and sit in the corner,” he continued, “But it’s just taking a little step forward, taking a deep breath from time to time. It really helps.” Athletes are trained in putting on a facade of unbreakable confidence for their audience and fans. They want people to believe they are strong in spite of any struggle, but in actuality, their mental and emotional health might not be as strong as they are physically. 

At the last Olympics, Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles both had to leave the competition due to mental health. Naomi Osaka had to leave due to persistent depression and social anxiety. In an interview with Vogue, Osaka shared her emotions surrounding a childhood of watching her mother work overtime:“All I was thinking was, ‘I want my mom to be happy. I want her to stop working. . .  That was my whole point of playing tennis, honestly. Either become a champion or probably be broke.” Naomi Osaka presents herself as a mindful person, bringing more awareness to mental health struggles and personal trauma that impact individuals of all walks of life, particularly athletes.

To reinforce the validity of Osaka’s decision,  an article by Team USA said “Seeking help for mental health issues may help athletes to process their experiences and find healthy coping skills to manage the stress and pressure that comes with their position. This can allow the athlete to focus on their sport in a healthy manner which could increase performance overall.”

Listening to athletes talk about mental health can also be empowering to people who look up to them. Athletes are revealing an emotional side to contrast with their strong physical appearance. By doing this, they are breaking the stigma of mental health in the Olympics and athletes worldwide. Athletes deserve to have a better support system, and mental health should be observed more in people who are athletes. The counseling support system for athletes needs to be prioritized above performance, as they are human beings who deserve to be treated as such. By doing this, athletes are given the opportunity to reach out to someone who can help them navigate life struggles and mental health. By prioritizing mental health, athletes will have better mental health and a better career.