What They Don’t See

Cherokee LeBeau

Mental health plays a huge role in the lives of athletes. Many athletes deal with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety but don’t get the help they need.

Athletes’ lives aren’t just filled with glory and praise, as it appears on television or social media. In a study done by the NCAA, it was found that 30% of student athletes have dealt with depression or anxiety. One of the most common reasons is lack of sleep. Sleeping disorders affect the mental and physical state of the athlete. Without the proper rest and recuperation, the body is getting broken down and the risk of injury goes up. As a college athlete, if you are not getting the appropriate amount of sleep, your performance on the field and in the classroom will be affected.

Another reason for anxiety is the need to be the best. Many athletes feel like they’re not good enough and fear letting someone down. This strain can cause them to break down mentally.

Mental health doesn’t just affect college athletes. Two of the most popular NFL players, Rob Gronkowski and Andrew Luck, retired this year, and fans wondered why they would leave the game and the millions of dollars on the table. For Gronk and Luck, the strain became too much. Gronk revealed how after winning Super Bowl 53, he slept only five minutes that night because of the physical and mental pain. Gronkowski missed 29 games in his career, and Luck missed 9 games in 2015 and the entire 2017 season. These injuries took a toll on Luck leading him to hang up his cleats at the age of 29. Injuries and the mental strain of rehab became too much for these two stars, and they needed to step away from the game to find joy in their lives again.

Kevin Love is one athlete who openly admits having anxiety. The NBA star shared one experience that has affected him deeply. He had an anxiety attack in the locker room during a game and was left on the floor unable to breathe. This side professional athletes’ life is not seen by the public. Love has become open about his struggles to inspire athletes to seek the help they need, and to let them know they’re not alone.

Ricky Williams, former NFL star, became open about his struggles after his career came to an end. He said, “I was 23, a millionaire and had everything, yet was never more unhappy in my life.” The issues go beyond the field and affect the athlete’s social life.  Williams went on to say, “I felt extremely isolated from my friends and family because I couldn’t explain to them what I was feeling. I had no idea what was wrong with me.” In most cases athletes are too proud to admit that something is wrong. They feel as if people will look at them differently, and it will affect their career, but this couldn’t be more false.

Seeking help is the best thing athletes can do. The following tips could help:

Seek Help.  Many people don’t know exactly what is wrong, so talking to a professional can help you figure out the problem and develop a plan for the future.

Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.  Sleep is the most important thing for an athlete. Getting at least 8 hours will help your body recover and leave you feeling more refreshed the next morning.

Find someone to talk to. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your family or trusted friends. Talking to someone relieves the built-up stress and gives you an outlet.

Find hobbies or activities that bring you joy. Find something other than sports to do in your spare time. Hang out with friends, listen to music, find a TV show to enjoy. Find something that will get your mind off the thing bringing you stress.

Control the controllable. There are so many things that happen to us in our daily lives that we are unable to control. To relieve unnecessary stress, plan out your day, create a schedule, and stick to it.