Mental Health in Sport: End the Silence, End the Stigma
(c) VictoryLab Inc. 2018
How 5 Mental Health Tips for Athletes Can Improve Performance and Debunk Mental Health Misconceptions
For so long, mental health has been surrounded by negative stigma, becoming a conversation that is never actually spoken. Although a large number of young adults suffer from depression, the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses is what stops people from seeking help. This stigma is especially obvious in sport, as athletes are the ones who are almost always expected to be fearless, strong, and untouchable; but, when an athlete is the one crying out for help, the stigma makes athletes feel as though seeking help is a sign of weakness. They often suffer in silence.
When VictoryLab beta-tested our app with a group of athletes, the feedback we were given wasn’t all surprising. Almost every player had a positive reaction to being told that they were able to seek professional help anonymously. It wasn’t hard to tell that these athletes were afraid of speaking up and letting their team-mates, their coaches, or the world know that sometimes they need help.
Instead of suffering in silence, there are ways for athletes to take care of themselves and their mental health in the world of sport. Here are five mental health tips for any athletes who may be struggling:
Tip 1: Self-Care
Although this tip may seem simple, or self-explanatory, it’s especially important for athletes to take care of themselves physically as well as mentally. Drink water, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. Without sleep, athletic performance declines, and tension and irritability increase. A lack of sleep also plays a role in potentially causing, or worsening depression. Self-care is an important step in creating and maintaining strong mental health, and increasing athletic performance.
Tip 2: Be Mindful
Value yourself, know your self-worth, treat yourself with kindness and respect. In sport, it’s very easy to self-criticize and over-analyze every small mistake. Not being mindful of your strengths and abilities, no matter how small, can lead to struggles with self-confidence, ultimately lowering performance levels. While it’s important for athletes to always strive to be better, it’s also important for athletes to recognize their value, and praise themselves for their hard work.
Tip 3: Know That It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
When athletes put too much pressure on themselves to be the best, their mental health may begin to deteriorate. Athletes are still human, and can struggle with mental health issues, so should know that admitting that they’re struggling is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.
Tip 4: Seek Help When You Need It
As we know, stigma is often the barrier preventing people from seeking help, whether it be from a friend, a coach, a family member, or a professional. When admitting that they’re struggling, sometimes athletes may be told to get up, shake it off and get back to it; but, finding help when you need it is critical for maintaining mental health. This is why we at VictoryLab included an anonymous support feature in our app, to allow players to seek help without ever having their problems be minimized. In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them. Don’t let the stigma surrounding mental health, in sport especially, discourage you from finding help.
Tip 5: Talk About It
We at VictoryLab know that mental health can be somewhat of an uncomfortable topic, but the only way to break the stigma is to use your voice. Talking about your struggles or issues creates a safe environment for discussing all aspects of mental health and not only that, but bottling up your problems may impact athletic performance. Using your voice to talk to anyone, whether it be a coach, a professional through the VictoryLab app or elsewhere, a family member, or a friend, letting your thoughts and emotions be known will help take some weight off of your shoulders.
VictoryLab strives to unmask the truth about mental health, as well as break the stigma that prevents athletes from finding the help they need. By providing athletes with a way to talk to somebody when they’re struggling, we hope to start a conversation about mental health that is often left unspoken, breaking the silence, and hopefully ending the stigma.
(c) VictoryLab Inc. 2018