While physical activity and sports participation offer physical, social, and emotional benefits for participants, athletes and others may also experience mental health consequences that complicate the benefits. The performance pressures, culture of playing through the pain, fear of losing a career, and widespread discrimination related to seeking help for mental health or substance use issues discourage many athletes—professional, collegiate, and amateur—from seeking help early or at all. Unfortunately, this reluctance has led to needless suffering and, at times, to tragic outcomes, including suicide.
Acknowledging a mental or substance use disorder takes courage. Increasingly, in recent years, many prominent athletes have stepped forward to talk about their mental health and addictions problems, thus paving the way for others to seek help. Athletes who have faced the unique challenges of managing mental health and/or substance use disorders while continuing to train, compete, and remain in the public eye are to be recognized, even admired, for their strength and perseverance. These role models have walked their individual paths of recovery and are leading the way for others to follow.
This Web page provides information and links to research and organizations that address the complex issue of mental health in the sports world. Helping athletes, trainers, coaches, and others better understand the unique challenges athletes face, these resources outline ways to promote positive mental health, support athletes in recovery, and reduce discrimination.