Mental Health Through Sports
8 minute read · Issue Number 62 · April 2nd, 2021
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Besides threatening society's physical health worldwide, the global pandemic has been hurting the mental health of millions, including professional athletes.
Even US Olympic medalist Michael Phelps spoke about mental health and depression derived from the pandemic recently.
I’m no expert in psychology, but in my experience, I also suffered from anxiety, loneliness, and stress multiple times during lockdowns— hence, affecting my mental health.
I decided that this topic is critical, so I researched and wrote about the relationship between mental health and sports.
But before that, I want to say that if you’re experiencing any mental health issue, you should:
Reach out. I’d be happy to talk and help you any way I can, seriously.
Get professional help – things could get messy if you don’t.
Let’s get to today’s chapter!
Addressing Mental Health Through Sport
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
— Arnold Schwarzenegger
Research has repeatedly proven that practicing sports and exercising has dozens of benefits, such as improving physical, psychological, cognitive, and social health, including reduced risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Nevertheless, recent studies suggest there is potential for sports to prevent mental illness and depression, reduce levels of suicidal ideation, and promote the early intervention of mental health.
Today, most of the research in this area is trying to figure out how sports could protect people against mental health problems and psychosocial well-being.
Sports for Children & Adolescents
Particularly for children and adolescents, participating in organized sports can play an essential role in their lives.
Because the youth are at a high risk of developing mental health problems, half of all psychological disorders have their onset before turning 14 years old.
If any young kid develops any psychological disorders, it’s key to treat them early; else, it could transition to physical consequences given by alcohol and drug use in adult life.
Participation in sport throughout adolescence is also a predictor of lower depressive symptoms, lower stress, and higher self-rated mental health in young adults.
Mental Health Benefits from Organized Sports
Sports participants, compared to non-participants, have more positive mental health.
Participating in organized sports also helps mental health through the provision of support networks and resources.
Think about it — the social interaction and opportunities to connect with other people from the same team create social support that can promote physical and mental well-being.
Other benefits from sports are self-esteem, identity formation, feelings of competence, positive peer relationships, leadership skills, cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, self-control, teamwork, commitment, and discipline.
Athletes at all levels can suffer from mental health problems, which can affect their physical performance in their sport and other parts of their lives.
Even professional athletes face challenges and stressors that increase their risk of developing mental health problems.
Sometimes, professional athletes have extreme psychological and physical demands which can affect their mental well-being.
Those could come from training and competition, injuries, time commitment, social difficulties, high pressure, and poor performance.
For example, up to 26% of current professional football players and up to 29% of former professional football players experience a mental health problem.
Yet there’s another issue. There are lots of people who experience mental health problems but do not seek professional help.
The main reasons?
Lack of knowledge about mental health
Society “perceiving” help-seeking as a sign of weakness
As a society, we have to address the issue by reducing mental health problems through public health and awareness campaigns.
Additionally, sports organizations need to effectively promote positive mental health and establish policies and procedures to address mental health problems when they occur.
Sport is a great tool that we should encourage amongst our peers to maximize positive mental health effects. It can also be a vehicle to promote awareness and education around mental health.
Schools are relevant environments for promoting mental health, and sports settings also offer a unique environment for mental health promotion and support.
Disclaimer: This essay is about the importance of encouraging sports to assist mental health, but it should not be taken as guidance about how to use sport to promote positive mental health or prevent mental health problems.
🎙 Halftime Snack of the Week
Visual Cognitive Training in the Fitness Market
This week’s Halftime Snack features Matt Campagna — CEO and co-founder of Reflexion — a technology company looking to create tools to train and monitor athletes' brains.
In our snack, we talked about becoming an entrepreneur, the value of education, challenges that sports-tech entrepreneurs face, visual cognitive training, and so much more.
Listen on Apple | Spotify | Google.
🚶🏻♂️Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Walk; Walking is one of the simplest and most strategic things you can do for yourself. It takes little preparation, minimal effort, no special equipment, and it can contract or expand to fit the exact amount of time you have available.
🏀 NBA Blockchain Billionaires Lead Study Group The NBA has created a blockchain advisory committee comprised of many of its billionaire owners, including Mark Cuban and Joe Tsai.
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Until next week,
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