Mental Illness In Sports

In the wake of a pro athlete’s recent suicide, Sports Illustrated looks at the issue of mental illness and the stigma that it still carries for many athletes.

The stigma of depression is isolating, which can be dangerous, especially since individuals suffering from depression are prone to abusing alcohol or drugs to cope with their unwanted feelings or to other methods of self-harm, including suicide. In fact more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have risk factors including depression, other mental disorders or a substance abuse problem.

Mental Illness In Sports

Bronco’s Player Commits Suicide

In the wake of the death of Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley this week from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Sports Illustrated is speaking out about the less-than-open approach the sports world takes to mental illness.

“In the macho, less-than-enlightened Republic of Sports, depression and other mental illnesses are often stigmatized as maladies for the weak,” the magazine says.

Depression in Sports

While there is no proof at this time that McKinley was depressed, other athletes have admitted to suffering from depression or other mental illnesses – and been ridiculed for their honesty.

“’Gutless’ was the term Bobby Valentine, then the Mets manager, allegedly used to describe Pete Harnisch after the pitcher suffered a depressive episode,” Sports Illustrated says. “’Run it off,’ an NBA coach once told Vin Baker when the player tried to explain his depression. ‘Don’t let the blues get you down!’”

The article goes on to explain that sports psychologists know they’re better off branding themselves as “performance coaches” if they want to be accepted by the athletes, who are afraid of being labeled a “head case.” SI then points out the irony, adding that, “it’s entirely possible that athletes in pro sports — the ultimate kennel of alpha dogs — might be MORE prone to mental illness than members of society at large.

Some leagues and programs are beginning to recognize the need for information and a proactive approach.

Mental Illness Treatment

If you or someone you love is battling mental illness, call The Oaks at La Paloma at our toll-free number. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.

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