Sport and Mental Health
Sally Perkins takes a look at the Top Sports Stars who have opened up about their mental health.
Mental health problems are both a UK and worldwide epidemic. With one British government report finding that 14.7% of people in this country go through mental health problems in the workplace, it is clear that there is a real, widespread problem. And for those who work in sport, the macho environment of some teams and relative lack of institutional support means that it can be even harder to turn up to work as a footballer, rugby player or other sportsperson without experiencing problems. Many sports stars, though, are bravely fighting back through communicating in an open and honest way.
The Olympic cyclist has lots of achievements under her belt these days, but it has not always been rosy for Victoria Pendleton. When she was in her twenties she took to self-harm as a way to manage her negative feelings, and she experienced low moods and similar problems. But talking - and visiting a psychiatrist - really helped her. "There are so many people within sport who do not feel comfortable talking about their weaknesses, but I cannot help but be honest," she has said.
The former England cricketer has experienced serious mental health problems including anxiety and depression. He even ended up leaving the team in order to focus on working out his problems, but he is now opened up about what he experienced. "I was cooped up in bed for the best part of a week and it got progressively worse to the point where I thought I have got to get out of here and sort out what is happening to me'," he told Men's Health magazine.
A former goalkeeper for both Manchester United and Rangers, Andy Goram is no stranger to the world of mental health problems. He visited Alcoholics Anonymous after realising he had a problem with drinking, and he was also diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia in the 1990s. Luckily, schizophrenia therapy and medication choices have developed and become more widely known about in recent decades - and that is in part due to the bravery of people like Goram who decided to go public with their diagnosis.
Sportsmen and women may face more problems than others if they find themselves going through a tough time mentally. But thanks to the courage of those who have decided to speak out, the world of sport is becoming a better place for those who experience issues. And with more and more sportspeople going public about their problems, it is likely that fan acceptance and structural support will just get better and better.
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About the Author
Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years' experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.
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