Athlete Mental Health: How to Keep Your Athlete Mentally Healthy | Collage and Wood

Mental Health In Athletes: How to Keep Your Student-Athlete Healthy

Mental health is often ignored in athletes, but it's just as important as physical health.

This blog should not be considered medical advice. If you or someone you love is having a mental health crisis, please call 911, or your family physician.

A quick story about me:

My athletic performance equaled my identity; An ACL injury meant the end of who I was as a competitive athlete.

But let me back up a little bit.

As a 16 year old junior in high school, I played on an overachieving high school volleyball team.

We took second place at the Kansas State volleyball tournament.

You could call us the ultimate underdogs! We were “athletes” who specialized in basketball but developed a love for volleyball.

MAGICAL is the one word I can think to sum up our improbable run to the State Championship game.

We looked to keep the trend going during basketball season.

Our team made it to the state tournament again and played our first game against the eventual state champion.

As I remember it, we led by five points late in the first quarter. I remember aggressively attacking our basket.

I made a jump stop to the left, across the lane … and I blew out my knee.

The rest of the game finished in a blur.

Once, I attempted to go back into the game. I couldn’t run. I almost immediately came back out.

From the bench I tried to cheer for my teammates but I kept getting choked up and the tears.

Angry tears combined with the ugly cry that comes with a broken heart - the tears that wouldn’t stop.

Then, we lost.

The dream run for our team ended.

After our loss, my torn ACL was confirmed. We scheduled my surgery.

My parents felt it best that I stayed in one classroom every day to avoid the stairs at my high school.

For weeks, I was isolated from all of my friends.

My travel team began to practice. Without me.

Softball season started, which most of my friends played.

I focused on rehab - 5:30 a.m. in the pool, 45 minutes on the elliptical.

I felt so lost, and so very alone.

At the time, I identified as one thing: an athlete.

Back then, no one talked about mental health in athletes.

No one talked about mental health care for young athletes who experienced traumatic injuries.

Even my family felt like mental health services were unnecessary for my recovery.

Seeing a therapist was the ultimate mental health stigma, a sign of weakness that the "strong" do not have.

Sadly, my uncertainty about my future manifested in a thousand bad decisions.

The recruiting letters stopped.

Everyone held their breath and watched - maybe even placed their bets if I would ever play again.

Most people probably didn't think of me at all.

I tell you all of this because I wonder how today's young elite athletes feel. 

The ones having the mental health emergency after their injury - but for a multitude of reasons, are unable to get help.

As an athlete ends a high school or college playing career because of an injury, I wonder if she feels lost.

If she feels like her identity has been taken. Will she have a sports medicine team to help her rehab and cheer her on as she returns to the field?

Or will she feel disconnected and lonely because she is separated from her team?

I wonder if she feels confused about how to navigate life without the familiarity and comfort of competition, and training.

Will he get the mental health help she needs? Will he feel safe to get her mental health needs met? Or will he suffer silently in shame?

Injured Competitive athletes understand the paradigm shift with the question: If I can't play, how can I be my best? Who am I without the game?

The end of a playing career is inevitable - but the way it ends can mean psychological concerns.

I believe every athlete wants to end a competitive career on her terms.

In a perfect world, that would happen.

But if we can't end it on our terms, how can we improve and protect the mental health in athletes?

I want to change that by contributing to the conversation about mental health in athletes.

I believe that every athlete should have access to the best mental health care possible - but it starts first with awareness.

I hope to make a difference in the lives of athletes everywhere by sharing my story.

Mental health in athletes is an important topic of discussion in today’s society, and it's no different for athletes.

You want to make sure your athlete has a healthy mind so they can be at their best on the field or court - and off!

If you have any mental health concerns for your athlete, there are more resources available than ever.

Additional online resources include counseling websites such as:



Mental health for athletes has been studied by many researchers, but there is still much to learn.

According to a study done at Northeastern University, researchers have found that athletes are more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.

Their statistics indicate that 95% of male and 85% of female athletes report higher stress compared to 52% of non-athlete students.

Athletes report higher stress in romantic relationships, higher responsibilities, decreased sleep, and extracurricular activity demand. (source: Northeastern University: Identifying Stress Unique to College Athletes).

Athletes are under a lot of pressure to perform well. They may be worried about their place on the team, their scholarship, or their future in the sport.

Some athletes turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with these pressures. This can lead to addiction and other mental health problems.

Mental health problems for athletes can also arise from injuries.

Athletes who suffer serious injuries may have trouble returning to competition.

They may feel depressed or anxious about their ability to perform at a high level again.

Eating disorders are also common among athletes.

Many athletes feel pressure to be thin or muscular. This can lead to unhealthy eating habits and body image issues.

It is important for athletes to get help if they are struggling with mental health problems.

There are many resources available to athletes, including counselors, therapists, and support groups.

Student athletes are constantly under pressure to perform at their best.

They are expected to juggle academics with our training schedule, and often their social life takes a backseat to sports-related commitments.

Juggling so many balls in the air (no pun intended!) can take a toll on athlete mental health.

Coaches can help alleviate the stigmas around mental illness and mental health in athletes

Fortunately, coaches can play a vital role in supporting student athlete mental health.

Athletes could talk to their coaches or trainers about their mental health if they feel comfortable.

Coaches can provide support and understanding. They can also help connect athletes to resources if needed.

However, this is such a nuanced situation, particularly in college athletics where coaches are also under tremendous pressure.

At the highest levels, it may be best to have a designated mental health professional on staff to help athletes navigate their stressors in healthy ways.

Whichever the approach, by taking the time to check in with athletes and see how they are doing, coaches and team staff can help student athletes to identify when they might be struggling.

Then they can connect their players with the resources they need to get back on track.

Lastly, coaches can create an atmosphere of open communication, where student athletes feel comfortable speaking up about their mental health without fear of judgement.

Mental toughness of student athletes

Being a student athlete requires a tremendous amount of mental toughness.

You have to be able to block out all the noise and focus on your studies, while also dealing with the pressure of performing on the field or court.

That takes a special kind of person.

Student athletes have to be able to handle disappointment, both in themselves and in their team's performance.

They also have to be able to stay motivated, even when things are tough.

It's not easy being a student athlete, but those who have the mental toughness to succeed are truly special.

These athletes are the ones who will go on to achieve great things, both in their sport and in their lives.

Mental toughness in high-pressure situations is a lot like courage when facing a threat.

It’s not that we aren’t afraid, it’s that we still act in spite of the fear.

In stressful game situations, it’s not that mentally-tough athletes don’t doubt their ability or fear failure - but they trust their training and are willing to try even though it’s hard.

I love how this performance coach described it:

“True mental toughness is pliability and flexibility.” - Justin S'ua, Head of Mental Performance, Tampa Bay Rays

I’ve listened as coaches have shared stories of watching athletes who play “in the zone.”

It’s magical to watch - when an individual or team is competing together at their highest level.

Other times I’ve seen "it" while watching off-Broadway musicals.

No matter the art, there’s nothing like watching talented individuals perform at their best. 

Once, I heard the someone describe playing in “The Zone” as "pure love and joy."

We can reframe every loss and victory as a metaphor for success in life - and improve athlete mental health.

However, we know that in sports there is always the victor on top and the loser on the bottom.

We don’t like to hear words like loser, lost, or failure. Especially when it pertains to our kids. 

How coaches (and you as a parent) can help an athlete bounce back after a poor performance, an untimely turnover or painful loss.

An expert in athlete mindset, Bryn Drescher, said it this way: 
“Clarify the difference between fault and responsibility.”
-Bryn Drescher

We have to separate the mistake, the error, the miscalculation - we have to separate these efforts from the individual.

Athletes make mistakes. But athletes are NOT the mistakes.

One of my favorite insights has been from an athlete playing basketball professionally overseas, Josh Young. 

He said:
“Help them (athletes) differentiate their talent from their gift. The gift will be their for life - that’s what they will give to the world.”
- Josh Young

Being a student athlete is one of the most difficult things there is.

You have to juggle between academics and sports, and often times, it can be hard to strike a balance.

When you're student athlete, your entire life revolves around your sport. You eat, sleep, and breathe it.

And when an injury forces an athlete to hang up their cleats for good, it can be devastating.

Even when the end is expected, because of senior year, it's still hard to accept that your playing days are over.

However the end comes, it's hard.

All of a sudden, student athletes may feel like you have no purpose.

Many have their identity intertwined with being an athlete, and now that's gone.

When competitive sports end, your athlete may suffer from deep sadness, or grief, over the loss of participating in the game that they love.

It's normal to grieve the loss of your athletic career. But with time, healing can occur.

May is mental health awareness month. Athletes have mental health challenges too, particularly when competition ends.

The Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

The Kubler-Ross grief cycle is a series of emotions experienced by people who are grieving. It was first introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.

The cycle includes five stages: 
  1. denial,
  2. anger,
  3. bargaining,
  4. depression, and
  5. acceptance.

Though it is often described as a linear process, it is important to remember that not everyone experiences all five stages.

The order in which they are experienced may vary.

Here are what the stages of grief your student athletes may look like at the end of their high school or college career:


In this stage, individuals are in shock and denial. They may be unwilling to accept that the loss has occurred.

This is a defense mechanism that gives them time to adjust to the new reality.


As the initial shock wears off, reality sets in and individuals become angry. They may be angry with themselves, with God, or with the sport they loved.

This is a normal part of the grieving process and is often directed at those who are perceived as being responsible for the "death" of this part of their life.

For some college athletes or high school athletes (and definitely professional athletes), their entire identity has been built around being an athlete.

So when their college career comes to an end, they can feel lost and uncertain about the future.

Those emotions can quickly turn to anger about their circumstance.

This can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

There are many ways to get help if you're struggling with your mental health.
If you're a college athlete, your school's athletic department may have mental health resources available to help you transition to life after sports.
There are also many counseling and mental health services online and in your community.


In the bargaining stage of grief, individuals may try to make deals with God or other powers in an attempt to change the reality of the situation.
They may also ruminate on what they could have done differently to prevent the final outcomes of the last game - or question their decision to stop playing their sport.
It is common for athletes to feel like they are "letting their team down" if they retire or quit playing as student athletes.

Athletes may also deal with grief in different ways than the general population.

For example, an student athlete who has just been cut from a team may react with anger and disbelief, feeling that the decision was unfair.

Athlete mental health is a growing concern as more and more athletes are coming forward with mental health issues.


In this stage of the end of an a student athlete's career, individuals may become withdrawn and despairing.

They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy and have difficulty seeing a future without their beloved sport.

This can lead to depression, which is a serious mental health condition that requires treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please seek professional help.

Mental health is an important issue for all athletes, but it can be especially difficult for student athletes who are dealing with the end of their careers.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek help from a mental health professional.

Remember, there is no shame in seeking help—it is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Athlete mental health matters!

Making the Transition After Competition: Stage 5: Acceptance


In this stage, student athletes are able to accept the reality of the situation and start to make plans for their future.

They may still feel sad or experience moments of grief, but they are able to go on with their lives.

Even while active in sports, the grief cycle is evident.

Players may go through denial after a loss, anger at their opponents or teammates, bargaining with the coach or themselves, depression over their performance, and eventually acceptance of the result.

When an injury causes the end of a student athletes career

Athletes who suffer an injury go through the stages of grief in order to come to terms with their new reality.

The first stage is denial.

In this stage, the athlete may not want to believe that they are injured and may try to downplay the severity of the injury.

After denial comes anger.

The athlete may be angry at themselves, the situation, or even God.

They may feel like they have been dealt a unfair hand and start to question why this has happened to them.

The next stage is bargaining.

In this stage, the athlete may start to make deals with themselves or with a higher power in order to avoid the reality of the situation.

For example, they may promise to never play their sport again if they are able to heal quickly.

The fourth stage is depression.

In this stage, the athlete may start to feel hopeless and helpless.

They may withdraw from their friends and family and stop participating in activities that they once enjoyed.

The final stage is acceptance.

In this stage, the athlete is finally able to accept the reality of their situation and make plans for their future.

The Kubler-Ross grief cycle is a helpful tool for understanding the emotions that people experience when they are grieving.

It is important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

If you are struggling to cope with a loss, seeking professional help can be a valuable step in the healing process.

Source: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.

Frequently Asked Questions related to mental health in athletes

How does being an athlete affect mental health?

There are a lot of ways that being an athlete can affect mental health. First, the competitiveness of sports can lead to athletes feeling like they have to be perfect all the time. 

This can put a lot of pressure on athletes and can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. 

Second, the training schedule for most athletes is very intense. 

This can lead to exhaustion and burnout.

Third, injuries are common in sports, and they can often be very serious. 

This can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. 

Finally, the pressure to perform well in competitions can be very stressful for athletes.

All of these factors can affect mental health in athletes in a negative way. 

What do athletes struggle with mentally?

Athletes often struggle with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. 

This may be due to the pressure of competition, the stress of training, or feeling like they let their team down.

It's important for athletes to remember that it's normal to feel these emotions and that they are not alone. 

It's also important to seek help if the feelings become overwhelming or start impacting their daily life. 

There are many resources available, including therapists and support groups specifically for athletes.

What is the most common mental illness in athletes?

The most common psychiatric disorders in student- athletes are represented in the following categories:

Anxiety disorders 
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that involve excessive worry and fear. 
People with anxiety disorders often have problems controlling their thoughts and feelings, which can lead to serious problems in everyday life.
Anxiety disorders can be treated, and many people with anxiety disorders lead normal, happy lives. 
However, it's important to seek help if you think you might have an anxiety disorder.
Untreated anxiety can lead to depression, drug abuse, or even suicide.
Mood disorders
Mood disorders, also known as affective disorders, are a group of conditions that disturbed a person's mood. 
The most common mood disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia. 
Mood disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including biological factors (such as genetics or brain chemistry), psychological factors (such as stress or trauma), or social factors (such as job loss or social isolation). 
Treatment for mood disorders typically involves medication, therapy, or both. 
If you think you may be suffering from a mood disorder, it's important to seek professional help. 
A mental health professional can conduct an evaluation and provide an accurate diagnosis.
With proper treatment, most people with mood disorders can lead happy, productive lives.
Personality disorders 
There are many different types of personality disorders, but they all share one key feature: a persistent pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture. 
This can cause serious problems and impairment in social, work, and personal relationships. 
Personality disorders are generally divided into three groups: Cluster A (odd or eccentric), cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic) and cluster C (anxious or fearful).
Some other less common types also exist. Source: Thrive Works
Personality disorders usually first develop in adolescence or early adulthood, although it is sometimes difficult to diagnose them at this stage as the symptoms can be similar to those of normal teenage behavior. 
If left untreated, personality disorder can lead to significant distress and problems functioning in everyday life. 
With treatment and support, many people with personality disorder can live fulfilling lives.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder that affects people’s ability to focus and control their behavior. 
It’s usually first diagnosed in childhood, but it can persist into adulthood.
People with ADHD may have difficulties paying attention, be easily distractible, and be unable to sit still for long periods of time. 
They may also act impulsively and take risks without thinking through the consequences.
Although ADHD can cause problems in all areas of life, it doesn’t have to prevent someone from leading a happy and successful life. 
With the right treatment, most people with ADHD can improve their symptoms and function well in school, work, and relationships.
Eating disorders 
Eating disorders are a group of serious medical conditions that involve abnormal eating habits.
There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
People with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight and often restrict their food intake severely or exercise excessively to lose weight. 
People with bulimia nervosa binge on food and then purge (vomit) or use laxatives to get rid of the food. 
People with binge-eating disorder often eat large amounts of food in a short period of time but do not purge.
All three types of eating disorders can cause serious health problems and can be life-threatening. 
Treatment for eating disorders usually involves a combination of individual, group, and family therapy, as well as medical monitoring.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, it is important to get help right away.
Eating disorders are treatable, but the sooner treatment is started, the better the chances for recovery.
Body dysmorphic disorder
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition where a person becomes obsessed with their appearance and spends a lot of time worrying about minor or imagined defects in their appearance. 
People with BDD may become so preoccupied with their looks that it interferes with their daily life. 
They may avoid social situations, or have problems at work or school because they are so worried about how they look. 
Symptoms of BDD can vary from person to person, but common signs include excessive grooming, comparing oneself constantly to others, hiding from mirrors, and seeking surgery or other treatments to "fix" the perceived flaw.
Adjustment disorders 
Adjustment disorder is a condition where a person has difficulty adjusting to or coping with a particular life event or stressor. 
The symptoms of an adjustment disorder can be emotional, behavioral, or physical and typically occur within 3 months of the stressful event.
Some common symptoms of adjustment disorder include feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, irritable, angry, hopelessness, helplessness, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. 
Behavioral symptoms may include problems with sleeping, eating, concentrating, and socializing. 
Physical symptoms may include headaches, chest pain, rapid heart rate, and stomachaches.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after a traumatic event or major life change it is important to seek professional help. 
Adjustment disorders can be treated with individual therapy, group therapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes.
With treatment, most people are able to cope with the stressor and improve their symptoms.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an adjustment disorder, there is help available. 
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has support groups and other resources that can be of assistance. 
You can also contact a mental health professional for more information about treatment options for this mental health issue.
Substance use disorders 
A substance use disorder is a medical condition that occurs when someone uses drugs or alcohol in a way that is harmful to their physical or mental health. 
It can cause problems with work, school, relationships, and finances. 
People with a substance use disorder may have trouble quitting using the substance, even when it causes problems in their lives. 
Treatment for a substance use disorder often includes counseling and therapy to help the person stop using the substance and make healthy choices. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating mental health challenges, but taking these steps can help you or someone you care about recover from a substance use disorder: 

1) Talk to a healthcare provider or counselor about drug or alcohol use. 
This can be tough, but it’s important to get help from a professional who can assess the situation and recommend treatment options.
2) Join a support group or go to therapy.
This can provide accountability and help you learn healthy coping mechanisms.
3) Make lifestyle changes.
Eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep can help reduce stress and improve your overall health.
4) Avoid triggers.
If you’re trying to avoid using drugs or alcohol, it’s important to stay away from people, places, and things that may trigger a relapse.
5) Seek professional help if you feel like you can’t quit on your own.
Sometimes, people need medication or other forms of treatment to overcome a substance use disorder.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

If you or someone you care about has a substance use disorder, remember that recovery is possible. 

With the right treatment and support, many people are able to overcome addiction and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

Impulse control disorders 

Impulse control disorders are a type of mental health condition that involves problems with controlling impulses. 

This can lead to engaging in risky behaviors or activities that may be harmful to oneself or others.

There are several different types of impulse control disorders, including pyromania (the urge to set fires), kleptomania (the urge to steal), and pathological gambling.

While the specific causes of impulse control disorders are unknown, they are thought to be related to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

Treatment typically includes psychological counseling and/or medication.

Psychosomatic illnesses 

Psychosomatic illnesses are conditions in which psychological factors contribute to or worsen physical symptoms. 

Stress, for example, can lead to headaches, insomnia, and other physical problems. 

Psychosomatic illnesses are often misunderstood.

Some people think that they're "all in your head," but that's not the case. 

The mind and body are closely connected, and emotional distress can manifest itself in physical sickness. 

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, but typically it involves a combination of medication (for any underlying conditions), therapy (to address stressors and negative thoughts), and lifestyle changes (such as relaxation techniques or exercise). 

If you're experiencing physical symptoms that seem to be caused or worsened by psychological factors, it's important to see a doctor or mental health professional.

They can help you get to the bottom of what's going on and develop a plan to improve your symptoms.

Source: NCAA Sport Science Institute

Are athletes more prone to mental illness?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as mental illness can be caused by a variety of factors. 

However, athletes often put immense pressure on themselves to succeed, and this can lead to anxiety or depression if they don't meet their own high standards. 

Second, athletes often have a very regimented lifestyle, which can lead to boredom or isolation and make them more susceptible to mental health problems.

Or a difficult transition to life after sports when the regimented lifestyle ends.

Third, many athletes endure significant injuries during their careers, and these injuries can lead to depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Finally, many athletes retire from their sport before they reach old age, and this abrupt change in lifestyle can lead to mental health problems.

What is the best sport for mental health and mental wellness?

Exercise is definitely one of the best things for mental health! 

It's a great way to release endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel good. Exercise also helps to improve your mood, reduce stress levels, and boost self-confidence.

Swimming, running, cycling, and hiking are all great options to improve your mental health.

Just be sure to get moving for at least 30 minutes each day.

You'll be amazed at how much better you'll feel both mentally and physically!

What are the 10 mental benefits of sports?

Obviously, there are many great benefits to playing sports. 

Here are 10 ways that playing sports can improve your mental health and wellbeing:

  1. Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem.
Playing sports can help you feel good about yourself and build confidence in your abilities.
Succeeding in athletic competition can provide a real ego boost that can carry over into other areas of life.
  1. Playing sports can relieve stress and anxiety for many amateur and elite athletes.
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, and playing sports is no exception.
The endorphins released during physical activity can help to alleviate anxiety and improve mood. 
If you find yourself feeling stressed out, consider hitting the court or field instead of the couch.
  1. Sports and physical activity improves sleep quality.
Getting enough quality sleep is essential for good mental health, and exercise can help. 
Research shows that people who are physically active tend to sleep better than those who are inactive. 
So if you’re having trouble sleeping, playing sports may help you get the rest you need.

  1. Sports and physical activity increases energy levels.
Regular exercise is known to increase energy levels, and playing sports is a great way to get moving. 

If you’re feeling sluggish, getting some exercise can help give you the boost you need to get through the day.

  1. Sports can improve focus and concentration.

Playing sports can help improve your focus and concentration.

The need to pay attention to what you’re doing and coordinate your movements can help “work out” your ability to focus.

This can carry over into other areas of life, such as work or school.

  1. Reduces symptoms of depression.
Depression is one of many serious mental health conditions that can have a profound effect on your life. 
But exercise, including playing sports, has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and improve mood. 
  1. Competing in sports promotes social interaction.

Playing sports can provide opportunities to socialize and interact with others. 

This can help reduce isolation and loneliness, two important risk factors for mental health issues.

Joining a sports team or participating in community leagues can be a great way to meet new people and build relationships.

  1. Competing in sports teaches goal-setting and perseverance.
Playing sports can teach you important skills like goal-setting and perseverance.
Learning how to set goals and work towards them can help you in other areas of life, such as school or work.
And developing grit and determination can help you overcome obstacles in all aspects of life, including mental health issues.
  1. Sports and an active lifestyle increase feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
The combination of physical activity, social interaction, and goal-setting can create a sense of accomplishment and pride that can boost your overall well-being.
  1. Sports and physical exercise improves brain health.

Physical activity has been linked to better cognitive function, and some studies have even found that playing sports can reduce the risk of developing dementia.

So if you’re looking for ways to keep your mind sharp, playing sports may be a good option.

Sports aren't just for college athletes or other elite athletes.

There are many sports that you can continue to participate in even after your time on a team is over.\

These are just a few of the ways that playing sports can improve your mental health and wellbeing. 

So get out there and keep moving! Your mind will thank you for it.

Why do athletes not talk about mental health?

Mental health is a serious issue, and athletes are just as susceptible to mental health problems as anyone else. 

However, some athletes may feel like they can't talk about their mental health problems because they're worried that it will make them appear weak or vulnerable.

Athletes might also feel like they have to put on a brave face and pretend that they're not affected by the stress of competition or the pressure to win.

This can be a very isolating experience, and it can be difficult for athletes to find someone who understands what they're going through.

That's why it's so important for athletes to talk about their mental health openly and honestly, and to seek help if they need it. 

Is mental health overlooked in sports?

There is no question that mental health is often overlooked in sports. 

This is primarily because mental health is viewed as a "soft" topic, and people tend to think of it as being less important than physical fitness. 

However, the reality is that mental health is just as important as physical health, and if athletes don't have good mental health, they are at a disadvantage when competing.

Mental illness can affect any athlete, including elite athletes, and there are many different types of mental illness. 

Some common examples include depression, anxiety, ADHD, and eating disorders. 

Athletes who suffer from these illnesses often find it difficult to concentrate or focus on their sport, and they may also experience emotional problems such as sadness or anger. 

In addition to this, mental illness can also lead to physical problems such as fatigue or insomnia.

It's important to remember that mental illness is not a sign of weakness, and it doesn't mean that someone is "crazy." 

Mental illness is a real medical condition that needs to be treated just like any other illness. 

There are many different ways to treat mental illness, and with the right help, athletes can still compete at a high level.

If you think that you or someone you know might be suffering from mental health issues, it's important to seek professional help. 

There are many resources available to athletes who need help, and there is no shame in seeking treatment. 

Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health, and athletes who don't take care of their mental health are at a disadvantage. 

Seek help if you need it, and don't be afraid to ask for support from your friends, family, or teammates.

How is mental health affecting athletes?

Performance anxiety, "the yips", paralysing self-doubt, second-guessing every move - athletes at every level can attest to the toll that mental health can take on their careers.

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps. 

In an interview with ESPN, he spoke openly about his battle with depression and how suicidal thoughts nearly drove him to take his own life. 

Every year, elite athletes, college athletes and high school players deal with similar issues in silence, afraid of the stigma attached to mental health. 


To understand why mental health is such a problem in the world of sport, it's important to consider the unique pressures that athletes face. 

For starters, they often put immense pressure on themselves to perform at the highest level. This can lead to anxiety and doubt when things don't go according to plan. 

Then there's the fact that athletes are constantly compared to their peers. This can create feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, especially if they feel like they're not measuring up. 

Competitors are also under a lot of pressure to maintain their image and reputation.

This can make it difficult for them to be open and honest about their struggles, for fear of being seen as weak or damaged goods. 

Finally, there's the issue of burnout. 

With the pressure to perform and constant travel, it's not uncommon for athletes to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. 

This can lead to depression, anxiety and a whole host of other mental health problems. 

The NCAA Has provided a list of resources to help address Athlete Mental Health issues


Mental health problems can have a profound impact on athletes, both in their personal lives and in their careers. 

For instance, anxiety and depression can lead to poor sleep, which can in turn affect energy levels, focus and performance. 

Mental health issues can also lead to substance abuse. 

This is often used as a way to self-medicate and cope with the pain and stress of competition. However, it can quickly spiral out of control and cause even more problems down the line. 

Finally, mental health problems can take a toll on an athlete's personal relationships. 

This is because the athlete may withdraw from loved ones, have difficulty communicating their feelings and become irritable and short-tempered. 


If you're struggling with your mental health, it's important to reach out for help.

 This can be difficult, but it's worth it. 

Here are some resources that can help: 

  • Your team doctor, athletic trainers, or healthcare provider. 
This is a good place to start if you're not sure where to turn.
They can assess your symptoms and provide you with a referral to a mental health professional.
Under the NCAA constitution, each member school is charged with facilitating an environment that reinforces physical and mental health within athletics by ensuring access to appropriate resources and open engagement with respect to physical and mental health.


  • Mental Health Hotlines.
If you need someone to talk to outside of normal business hours, you can call the 988 Mental Health and Crisis Hotline
This is easier than ever: simply call or text 988.

These are staffed by trained professionals who can provide support and resources. 

  • Therapist or counselor.
Talking to a therapist or counselor can be very helpful.
In-person counselors or online therapy companies like Betterhelp can help you work through your feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms. 

  • Support group.
There are many different types of support groups available. Organizations like FCA are a great resource for athletes who share a similar faith in God.

These can provide a safe space to share your experiences and connect with others who understand what you're going through. 

Don't hesitate to reach out for help if you're struggling with your mental health. It's a sign of strength, not weakness. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Why are athletes healthier?

Healthy lifestyles are often a top priority for elite athletes. They know that their bodies are their livelihood, and so they take care of them accordingly. 

Athletic training can be grueling, but it's also essential for peak performance. 

In order to maintain their health and well-being, athletes typically make sure to get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet, and stay hydrated.

Beyond the physical benefits, there are mental health benefits to being an athlete as well. 

The discipline and focus required to be successful in sports can transfer over into other areas of life. 

Athletes often have better time management skills and are more goal-oriented than their non-athletic counterparts. 

And because they're used to working hard and dealing with setbacks, they tend to be more resilient when faced with adversity.

So, in short, yes – athletes do tend to live healthier lifestyles than non-athletes. 

But of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. 

Some athletes let their success go to their heads and develop bad habits that can impact their health negatively. 

And some non-athletes are extremely health-conscious and live very healthy lives. 

But on the whole, athletes do tend to be more mindful of their physical and mental health than non-athletes.

What mental health issues do athletes have?

Athletes face a unique set of mental health challenges. 

As previously noted, amateur athletes to elite athletes can experience mental health issues.

Mental health challenges for student athletes can lead to substance abuse, eating disorders, and process addictions. 

The following factors may increase an athlete's risk for developing mental health problems: 

  • perfectionism, 
  • low self-esteem,
  • a constricted view of options in life,
  • severe commitment to sport,
  • early success followed by setbacks,
  • injury,
  • burnout from overtraining or underperforming,
  • isolation from friends and family due to the demands of training and competition schedules.

Other environment considerations such as coaching style; organizational climate (including professionalization); winning and losing; public adulation or criticism; and parents' expectations also place athletes at increased parents' expectations also place athletes at increased risk for developing mental health problems.

While athletes may face unique challenges that can lead to mental health problems, they also have some distinct strengths that can buffer against mental health difficulties. 

These strengths include:

  • high levels of physical and mental energy;
  • self-confidence;
  • a sense of mastery and control;
  • mental toughness; and
  • a focus on goal achievement.

In addition, athletes often have strong social support networks in the form of teammates, coaches, and other staff members.

These supports can play an important role in helping athletes to cope with the challenges they face and to prevent mental health problems from developing.

What problems do athletes have?

Athletes can have a lot of problems. For every positve element of competitive athletes, there is a corresponding negative factor.

For instance, some elite athletes take impeccable care of their bodies and physical health.

However, some athletes don't take care of their bodies as well as they should. 

They might not eat the right foods or get enough sleep, and this can lead to problems like fatigue, injuries, and a weakened immune system.

Another big problem for athletes is the pressure to perform at high levels.

This can lead to dangerous and illegal activities like doping. 

Doping is when athletes use drugs or other methods to improve their performance, and it can be very dangerous. 

Doping can cause health problems, and it's also against the law in many countries.

What athletes have had mental health issues?

In recent years, more and more athletes have been speaking out about their mental health struggles in an effort to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. 

Athletes who have spoken out about their mental health include Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, NBA star Kevin Love, and NFL player Brandon Marshall. 

All three of these athletes have open up about their battles with anxiety and depression. 

Additionally, Simone Biles, a 2020 Olympian gymnast and professional athlete, made headlines when she withdrew from competition to "focus on her mental health."

Biles' decision was widely criticised by the competitive sports community and celebrated by mental health professionals.

While it is unclear how many athletes struggle with mental health issues, it is clear that it is a problem that needs to be addressed. 

Mental health issues can lead to poor performance, injuries, and even retirement from sport. 

What are some examples of psychological issues?

Psychological issues can manifest in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • bipolar disorder,
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder,
  • post-traumatic stress disorder, and
  • eating disorders.

It's important to seek professional help if you're experiencing any of these symptoms as they can be quite debilitating and interfere with everyday life. 

Some people find journaling or mindfulness meditation to be helpful, while others find support groups or therapy to be beneficial. 

There is no one "right" solution for everyone, so it's important to explore what works best for you.

What causes mental health issues in sports?

The pressure to perform, constant public scrutiny and unrealistic expectations can all take their toll on athletes mentally. 

It's no wonder that mental health issues in sports are so common.

Unfortunately, mental health issues in sports are often seen as a sign of weakness.

Athletes feel like they have to "push through" the pain and suffering, even when it comes to their mental health. 

This is why mental health in athletes is often left untreated.

The good news is that there is help out there for athletes struggling with mental health issues. 

Therapy and counseling can be incredibly beneficial for athletes. Medication may also be helpful and necessary in some cases.

But the first step is feeling safe enough to ask for help.

How does mental health affect athletic performance?

Mental health, or poor mental health, can have a significant negative impact on athletic performance. 

While most people think of physical fitness when it comes to athleticism, mental fitness in athletes is just as important. 

Mental health can affect everything from focus and concentration to motivation and energy levels. 

For athletes, maintaining positive mental health can be a challenge. 

The pressure to perform at a high level can be intense, and the accompanying stress and anxiety can take a toll. 

When mental health issues are not managed effectively, they can lead to a decline in athletic performance. 

At the same time, however, many athletes find that their participation in sports helps them to manage their mental health challenges more effectively. 

The structure and discipline of athletics can provide a sense of stability, and the camaraderie of being part of a team can provide much-needed support. 

The physical activity involved in sports can also be beneficial, helping to release endorphins and boost mood. 

There are a number of ways that athletes can proactively manage their mental health.

Some tips include: 

  • Finding a balance between training and rest,
  • Maintaining a healthy diet,
  • Staying hydrated,
  • Getting enough sleep,
  • Taking breaks from social media and news consumption,
  • Practicing meditation or mindfulness,
  • Engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

Of course, every person is different, and what works for one athlete may not work for another. It's important to experiment and find what works best for you. 

If you need help finding mental health care, don't hesitate to reach out to your athletic trainers, parents, or coaches.

You can also find resources on the NCAA website at their Mental Health Education Resources page.

How does poor mental health affect athletes?

Poor mental health can have a significant impact on athletes. 

For example, it can lead to decreased motivation, increased anxiety or stress, and difficulty concentrating. 

This can in turn lead to decreases in athletic performance and an increase in the likelihood of injuries.

Mental health is just as important as physical health for athletes, and it's important to seek help if you're struggling.

Sports have many pros. But.

Dealing with the pressure of winning and unpredictable injuries requires a strong support system of friends and family who can offer emotional support

What is sports psychology in mental health?

Sports psychology is a mental health specialty that deals with the psychological aspects of sports, exercise, and physical activity.

It encompasses work with athletes to improve their performance and enjoyment of sports, with coaches to create winning teams, and with exercisers to help them stick to their fitness goals. 

Sports psychologists also help people use the mind-body connection to manage pain and recover from injury.

What are the 3 main roles of sports psychologist?

The three main roles of sports psychologist are to help athletes with:


1. Performance Enhancement

Helping athletes achieve their best performance possible.
This can involve helping them to set goals, dealing with anxiety and stress, improving focus and concentration, and dealing with injury.
2. Personal development
Helping athletes to develop as individuals both on and off the field.
This can involve working on character development, coping skills, life skills, and education/career planning.
3. Mental health support
Providing support for athletes who may be experiencing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or eating disorders.

Can a sports psychologist help with anxiety?

Yes, a sports psychologist can absolutely help with anxiety!

Whether it's football or track and field, swimming or basketball, EVERYONE experiences anxiety to some degree when competing. 

It's normal and natural to feel butterflies in your stomach before a big game or meet. 

Performance anxieties usually arise when we doubt our abilities or give too much importance to the outcome of the event. 

A sports psychologist can help you learn how to control pre-game jitters, deal with post-event reactions (like disappointment or elation), manage anxiety during competition, and utilize "self-talk" as a Positive Performing Tool. 

As you work with a sports psychologist, you will understand more about how anxiety affects your particular sport performance. 

You will also learn how to control anxiety so that it does not negatively impact your game. 

Ultimately, a sports psychologist can help you improve your athletic performance by teaching you how to control the anxiety that inevitably comes with competition.

Why do athletes suffer from mental health issues?

Some possible factors include the stress of competition, the pressure to succeed, yo-yo dieting and body image issues, social isolation, and chronic injuries.

How mental health affects an athletes performance?

Mental health affects an athlete's performance in a few different ways. 

Poor mental health can lead to distractions and lack of focus, which can negatively impact athletic performance.

Additionally, athletes who struggle with poor mental health may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors (such as drug and alcohol abuse) which can also lead to poorer performance. 

Finally, battling mental health issues can often lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness, which can further undermine an athlete's ability to succeed.

In contrast, great mental health can lead to better focus, improved decision making, and increased resiliency in the face of adversity. 

These are all qualities that can help an athlete perform at their best. 

Additionally, elite athletes who have a strong mental game are often more confident and motivated, which can also lead to better performance.

Mental health is a key factor in athletic performance. 

It is important for athletes to be aware of the signs of poor mental health so that they can seek help if needed. 

How do you promote mental health awareness?

  1. Educate yourself and others about the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
  1. Speak up when you see someone being treated unfairly or poorly because of their mental illness.
  1. Show compassion and understanding for people who are struggling with mental illness.
  1. Advocate for better funding for mental health research and treatment programs.
  1. Get involved in your school or community's mental health initiatives.

How can athletes better their mental health?

Athletes put a lot of wear and tear on their bodies. They also endure a lot of mental stress. 

As such, it's important for athletes to pay attention to their mental health just as they do their physical health. 

Here are some tips on how athletes can better their mental health: 

1. As discussed previously, get enough sleep and eat healthy foods.
Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health.
Most people need around 7-8 hours of sleep per night, but this varies from person to person.
Athletes should aim to get the amount of sleep that allow them to feel well-rested and energized during the day. 
Eating a balanced diet helps the mind and body function at its best.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides the nutrients needed for good mental health, while avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks can help keep energy levels stable.
2. Take time for yourself.
It's important to take breaks from training and competition to relax and recharge.
Taking time for activities that you enjoy can help reduce stress levels and promote positive mental health.
3. Connect with others.
Connecting with others, whether it's through talking, spending time together, or participating in activities together, can help reduce stress and promote positive mental health.
4. Seek professional help if needed.
If you're facing the adversity of poor mental health, don't hesitate to seek professional help.
A therapist can provide support and guidance for dealing with mental health challenges.
soccer senior night collage


And don't forget to celebrate the end of an amazing career! We offer a variety of senior night gifts and keepsakes.

Keep your favorite athlete's best memories and highlights front and center for as long.

Athletes are held to high standards, both physically and mentally.

We must stop shaming them for seeking mental health help. 

Mental health challenges can affect anyone, even professional, elite athletes. 

If you’re struggling with your mental health, never be ashamed to ask for help. 

There is no shame in admitting that you need assistance and getting the support you deserve.

I'd love to hear your story!

Have you faced an athletes mental health challenge - as an athlete, parent, or athletic trainers?

I'd love to hear from you! Drop your comments below!

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