Athletes; In this study the great basketball writer Jackie MacMullan recently stood at the front of a hotel ballroom in Tampa taking questions after collecting a career achievement award from the Association for Women in Sports Media. They was in the audience that day. Initially, the questions focused on her early days in basketball as a reporter. But then someone brought up a series of storiesMacMullan had written for ESPN last summer on NBA players’ mental health problems.
The package featured All-Stars Kevin Love and Paul Pierce, among others, discussing their struggles with depression and anxiety. Other big names backed out at the last minute, concerned about the stigma of mental illness and whether it might hurt their ability to land a good contract in free agency, a point MacMullan emphasized when we spoke after the session ended. She said a league source called the problem “rampant.”
The athletes struggle
It’s not just the NBA where athletes’ struggles with mental health are under scrutiny, either. As the director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, I’ve noticed that mental health and sports is a topic gaining attention among athletes and the journalists who cover them. Wanting to explore why it’s happening now and why it matters, they talk to some experts in the field.
The visibility of today’s elite athletes exacerbates the pressure. Scott Goldman, president-elect of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology; so to told me it’s hard for fans to understand what it’s like to constantly be in the spotlight. He recall watching a pro football player prepare to run onto the field and wonder aloud whether anyone else in the building had people howling at them when they went to work.
Attention to mental health issues in sports also seems to be on the uptick in the United Kingdom, said Professor Matthew Smith, a historian at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Smith, whose research focuses on medicine and mental health; which has tracking sports-mental health articles on the BBC for the last couple of years and note the count recently topped 100 stories.
He highlight the suicide of Wales national men’s soccer team manager Gary Speed in 2011 as a watershed moment that catalyzed the country’s awareness and that still makes headlines. Fast forward to this May, when England’s Football Association reveal a campaign to show that “mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness,” with Prince William making the public announcement.
Mental health issues
Back in the United States, some wonder whether athletes are opening up; so about mental health issues because rates of such problems are rising among young adults, or if it’s simply become more acceptable to talk about the issue. Yukelson said times certainly have change from the 20th century; so when athletes were expect to absorb every setback and insult on their own. There’s more support now.
The Association for Applied Sport Psychology, a group for sport psychology consultants; also professionals who work with athletes, coaches and nonsport performers; which was find only in 1985. It now has 2,200 members worldwide; so according to Emily Schoenbaechler; so the group’s certification and communications manager.
Goldman, meanwhile, compare the situation to not knowing; so you have a cockroach problem until you turn on a light. In other words, drawing attention to an issue makes more people aware it exists. But it’s also true that nearly one in five American adults has a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s more than 46 million people.
And an early advocate for speaking out about players’ mental health; Metta World Peace who change his name from Ron Artest in 2011 notes that when he first talk about his struggles; so the media thought he was “crazy.” Now the default is to call for getting the athlete some help. It all points to changing attitudes in sports and society. Or as Phelps put it in a recent tweet, “getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.”