Recently there’s been something of a movement concerning athletes and personal wellness. Usually if we grouped those things together we’d be talking about fitness, and what it takes to be as healthy physically as a professional athlete. In this case though it’s actually more about mental health and medical care. The last year has seen numerous incredible athletes either speaking out directly or otherwise letting us know that they too can suffer from mental health issues or serious maladies. And knowing that such seemingly immortal people have these struggles can be comforting, and can also motivate you to address any similar issues that may be troubling you.
These are some of the athletes who have spoke out.
In May of this year, NBA star Kevin Love wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune in which he started off by opening up about a panic attack. In the same piece he touched on problems with our concept of masculinity, discussed how he used to think mental health was “somebody else’s problem,” and ultimately posit that mental health is “an everyone thing.” It was a fascinating article that generated a lot of attention and, frankly, a very brave step forward for someone in Love’s position. The article demonstrated a person who’s struggled opening up when many of his peers may never have done so, and we can say now that it sparked a fairly broad discussion about mental health in professional athletes - which, in turn, will hopefully allow many others who emulate these figures to feel more comfortable discussing their own struggles in this area.
It’s hard to imagine a figure less in need of help than Michael Phelps, at least on the outside. Phelps is a young man with historic accomplishments already behind him and a world of opportunity at his fingertips. He’s won 23 Olympic gold medals (an all-time record), and it’s said that his prowess in the pool is matched by his skills at the poker table, which is a place that rewards confidence to some degree. Phelps seems to have it all, and we, the people of the world, have essentially never seen him fail or even struggle. And this made it all the more impactful when he, like Love, opened up about his struggle with mental health and launched his own campaign of sorts to assist with Talkspace - a program that provides online therapy to people struggling with depression and other issues.
Serena Williams’s place in this discussion is a little bit different. The greatest player in WTP history quite clearly supports all people’s rights not just to health but to wellness, and it’s evidenced in many of the things she does and says. However, her own health issues resulting from the birth of her first daughter have shed a light on a different aspect of wellness. As an article at Vox put it rather bluntly but correctly, black women are often dismissed or ignored by physicians, and Williams highlighted this fact by diagnosing her own embolism after her pregnancy. By opening up about what has to have been a traumatic time for her, Williams has essentially made the world aware of this problem, as well as the value of advocating for your own health and wellness in general.
Brandon Marshall was a star NFL wide receiver for years, and deserves a lot of credit for being one of the first modern athletes to speak up about mental health, a few years ago now. He opened up about his own struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder a few years ago, and has since spoken with NFL owners about the importance of recognizing mental illness and even joined Love in penning his own Players’ Tribune piece. While Marshall is still an active football player, he’s a man who has clearly made it a personal mission to help those who may struggle with mental illness and not know where to turn.
This was a guest blog post, and mindbodysoul-food.com has approved to publish this article.
Elizabeth Rae Kovar M.A. is Author of her memoir, Finding Om and is a Fitness Trainer, Yogi, Reiki Master, Presenter and Lover of Life. To view her portfolio please visit www.elizabethkovar.com