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International Youth Day ~ Youth and Mental Health

World Mental Health Day logoAccording to the United Nations, 20 per cent of the world’s young people experience a mental health condition each year.1 And athletes are not immune to mental illness.

The assumption is often made that because of their physical health, athletes must also be emotionally healthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The American Psychiatric Association highlights that the evidence suggests that athletes suffer from the same types of mental illness and at the same rates as the general population.2

In fact, because athletes do not want to appear weak, they may resist seeking help for mental health conditions.

In addition to the higher risks from youth transitioning from childhood to adulthood, athletes are also at risk due to the challenges associated with sport:

  • Stress and pressure of performing and being judged;
  • Head injuries and make some athletes up to four times more like to experience depression;
  • And other injuries, chokes/slumps, problems with teammates and coaches, overtraining, aging and retirement can contribute to depression and anxiety. 3

And just like a physical injury, treatment can help athletes recover and continue training and competing.

For more information, see these articles from SIRC published in their April 2014 newsletter.

The Stigma of Mental Health ~ When an athlete experiences physical injury, there is often a team of medical personnel including doctors, trainers and physiotherapists employed to ensure a speedy recovery. However, when an athlete experiences a mental health issue, the treatment process is often not quite as similar. Mental illness in sport is often overlooked and an athlete may be left with feelings of loneliness and abandonment, unsure of where to turn. read more

Athletes Battle Depression and Anxiety ~ Many of Canada’s Olympians are fitter and better looking than mere mortals, and they’re among the best at what they do. It’s difficult to believe their worlds can be dark. “Because athletes have become our heroes, people have thought they just couldn’t suffer from mental-health issues,” Toronto sports psychiatrist Dr. Saul Marks says. “Just like the normal population, athletes too can suffer from mental-health issues.” Two decorated Canadian Olympians know how it feels to compete at the highest levels in the world while dealing with depression. read more

Athlete Burnout ~ Most of us are familiar with feeling burned out. What you might not know is that young athletes are capable of getting burned out, too. Burnout is defined by sport psychologists as “physical/emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation, and reduced athletic accomplishment”. This is an important issue in youth sports because it is thought to contribute to dropping out of sports altogether. Given the tremendous benefits that accompany exercise and sport participation, the athlete who gives up sport participation is also giving up the important health benefits. read more

Understanding Mental Health Issues ~ When you think of a student-athlete’s health, you probably are inclined to think primarily of the person’s physical/medical condition and what effect the injury will have on athletic performance. A student-athlete’s “mental health” might be viewed as secondary to physical health; however, it is every bit as important. It makes little sense to try to separate the “mind” and “body.” One affects the other. read more
 

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