Athletes & Mental Health

Athletics at any level take commitment, mental focus, physical preparation, and mechanical reflexes.  Professional athletes spend hours in the weight room, on the track, and on the field practicing their sport’s special skills for hours each day.  Players often practice making free throws, taking ground balls, running hurdles, and spiking the volleyball thousands of times a week to be able to react in situations as a machine would react- flawlessly.

Unlike the muscle memory built by hours of practice, the mental health of an athlete is not mechanical. Emotions, family life, and behaviors are not mechanical. However, just “handling” problems is not feasible or realistic for real life. By educating the public about the prevalence of mental illness and the need for athletes to seek out mental health professionals, we can hope to have a greater impact on the futures of athletes on and off the court.

 The American Psychiatric Association stated in a recent article that they are hopeful to remove stigmas around mental health for athletes. Here are some of their hopes for mental health being addressed by schools, club teams, collegiate competition, and even for professional athletes.

  • Mental illness is as common in athletes as in the general population.
  • Athletics subject a person to a unique set of challenges and circumstances that can make a person vulnerable to feelings of depression or anxiety.
  • Mental illness is not a sign of weakness and should be taken as seriously as a physical injury.
  • Getting help will, most likely, improve and not damage one’s self-confidence.



Adam R Glendye MA MFT, LAPC