Legitimacy of mental health issues

Mental health isn’t just an issue for the general population; countless professional athletes from all sports have spoken out about their depression and anxiety. Success and wealth do not always equate to happiness.

In the professional sports world, there is immense pressure that surrounds athletes regarding their performances, especially in the era of social media, where cyber-bullying is prevalent. These pressures can cause or contribute to anxiety and depression. 

During this year’s NBA playoffs, many players including Clippers’ Paul George and Lakers’ Danny Green have spoken out about dealing with anxiety and depression from underperforming while being closed up in the bubble. Both players struggled throughout the playoffs and received hate on social media. Green and his fiancée even received death threats after he missed a crucial 3-point shot in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Aside from performance, many athletes also face mental health issues from injuries. Injuries are a part of every sport and athletes usually overcome them to be back in their best shape. However, depending on the severity and the frequency of injuries that occur to an individual, it can be overwhelming for them.

In a similar situation last year, former Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck shocked the NFL world when he announced his retirement at age 29, after only six years in the league. His reason for retiring: injuries, which has taken a mental and physical toll on him in his relatively short career. The injuries he faced through six seasons in the NFL were enough for a lifetime, causing him to constantly be in rehab and play in pain. His decision was for the betterment of his mental health and to be able to enjoy life.

Off-court issues are also a major factor to athletes dealing with mental health problems. Many professional athletes experience issues in their personal lives that are behind the curtains. The only way to know if someone is suffering from poor mental health is if they speak up about it. 

In 2018, Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan opened up about his struggles with depression and anxiety and how he has dealt with mental health issues since he was a child growing up in Compton. A month later, Cavaliers’ Kevin Love also revealed his issues with mental health and his panic attack experience during a game, which was caused by stress from family issues. Both basketball stars are now advocating for the importance of mental health.

Despite being the most decorated Olympian of all-time, Michael Phelps admitted to contemplating suicide after the 2012 Olympics before he received the help he needed from therapists. He has said that his struggles with depression and anxiety will remain for the rest of his life, likely caused by his ADHD.

Athlete or non-athlete, everyone is going through something we can’t see. As DeRozan said, “We’re all human, at the end of the day.”