An estimated 6.7 percent of the adult population suffers from depression. And in certain age groups, like young adults, it’s higher. Athletes may have characteristics that help make them stand out but they are not immune to issues concerning mental health. Awareness has been ramping up but the issue is still not widely known or accepted.
For athletes, depression can arise out of a variety of reasons. There’s the pressure to succeed, the presence of injury, personal issues, and more. It can build up gradually or seemingly come out of nowhere.
Although depression is a mood disorder, it doesn’t mean physical performance is not affected. It very much does. Symptoms can include sadness, hopelessness, and irritability. But these can translate physically into fatigue, and changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Eventually, the athlete finds it difficult to concentrate or make decisions, which will lose games.
Depression can spiral when left untreated. It’s not surprising to find victims indulging in substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide. To prevent depression from going that far, sports organizations need to develop a mental health program for athletes and coaches.
The program should be able to raise awareness of depression and other mental health issues and change the stigma surrounding it. It’s easy to feel alone and keep these problems to themselves. Athletes are supposed to be strong but that’s not always the case.
Next, it needs to help recognize and identify the signs and symptoms in themselves and others. Mental health can’t be treated if problems can’t be flagged.
Lastly, the program must provide pathways for treatment and provide ways to contact more knowledgeable experts who can help athletes improve their mental health.
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