Mental Health Awareness Week: Sports Counseling

October 8, 2018 0 By admin

Many athletes struggle with mental illness. Because they are not a general demographic they need a special kind of counseling, sports counseling. With one in five individuals having a mental illness, it’s easy to think of how many there are. Slowly but surely, athletes are coming forward and using their platforms to discuss the topic and share their experiences. For day two of my mental health awareness week series, I figured I would share with you a few of the athletes who have gone public with their mental illness or talked about their struggle in relation to their sport.

Heath Miller

Heath Miller was one of the greatest football athletes of all time plalying for the Pittsburgh Steelers for his whole career
Heath Miller-Pittsburgh Steelers

Miller was one of the greatest players in Pittsburgh and even NFL history. He played Tight End and retired in 2016. In a recent article, he talks about how hard the transition has been into regular life and missing the sport. Some athletes only see themselves as their sport. It is their defining factor when asked to describe themselves. Once they can no longer play, they then have to find a new way to describe themselves and learn to live without the sport.

Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall has played for teh Giants and the Seahawks. Has Borderline Personality Disorder
Brandon Marshall- New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks

Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2011, he has used his platform to advocate to erase the stigma around mental illness by starting an organization called Project 375. Many people with mental illness, especial more severe ones such as Brandon, are often judged by others and discriminated against. Knowledge of serious mental disorders is slim. A lot of the population get their vague understanding from how the illnesses are portrayed in the media and on TV, which are often inaccurate.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist has openly spoken about counseling and depression
Michael Phelps- Swimmer for Team USA

The famous Olympic gold medalist suffers from depression. He has been very open about it and has even done a commercial for an online counseling company to allow easier access to counseling for individuals. Many Olympic athletes fall into depressions after the Olympics end. The time spent training is a majority of their lives all building up to that event. Win or lose, they must go back to a different kind of normal. No longer training for hours on end every day towards a goal and not being able to see your teammates every day can be hard. Research with these athletes have shown group and individual counseling during and after the Olympics can help them deal with their feelings and go back into their non-training normal.

Imani Boyette

Imani Boyette is a basketball player for Atlanta Dream and has been very open about depression and mental health
Imani Boyette- Atlanta Dream

The Alanta Dream athlete has severe depression and has been extremely open about her thoughts and feelings about it. She advocates for more understanding with those who suffer from mental disorders, especially for ones in the black community. Individuals who suffer from suicidal ideations feel as though it is the only answer to the problems they face. They stop talking about how they feel because of the belief that they are a burden to others. People who lack the understanding of what they are going through often become annoyed at their actions and begin to shut them out. Majority of them become quiet and hide the depression, sometimes causing them to fall into it deeper.

Chamique Holdsclaw

Chamique Holdsclaw is a basketball player for the Mystics and has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
Chamique Holdsclaw- Washington D.C. Mystics

Chamique was first diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and then rightfully diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This disorder creates emotional ups and downs in individuals in cycles. Bipolar is difficult to diagnose, so individuals are usually misdiagnosed, especially if they do not have manic episodes for the right amount of time or to a noticeable level.

Besides the fact that serious mental illnesses can hurt an athlete’s performance, many other factors can do it as well. Which is where sports performance counseling comes in. Many athletes get into situations that cause them to freeze up or consistently make the wrong call. A counselor can work with them to get past that block to reach their full athletic potential as a team or as individuals.

Another area is career counseling. Their sole focus in school is often not their academics, but their athletic performance. Because of that, many do not think about what careers they will/would go into if they could no longer play. Some of them do not have the average work skills that you and I do, but an immense knowledge of their sports’ rules and the world. Some of the most famous become sports commentators after their careers end but many do not receive that opportunity. Trained individuals with an understanding of their skills and background are needed to help them find a new career that they will enjoy just as much.

Here is the link to the previous post in the series!