Athletes launch mental health discussions

I have gone through a phase of my career in which I felt it was the end of the world. In England in 2014, I just didn't know what to do, what to tell anyone, how to speak, how to communicate. I could have said that I don't feel very well mentally and that I need to get away from the game. But you never know how to take that. ” These were the words of virat Kohli , the captain of the Indian Cricket team and arguably the best Cricket er in the world today. This admission came on the heels of several Australian Cricket ers taking time off from the game to focus on their mental health . It simply highlights the pressures that professional athletes suffer, even the best. At present, when the media's view of athletes has increased and social networks have allowed millions of fans to criticize any athlete directly, most athletes live in a pressure cooker of their own creation, where anxiety and performance-related insecurity lead to problems in personal life. good. Mental HealthMental Health



Experts say the first lesson sportspersons need to imbibe is to not associate self-worth and self-esteem with their performance or form. Paddy Upton, who was Indian Cricket team’s mental conditioning coach and has coached several T20 teams around the globe, says, “The key is to help a player understand that who they are as a person and what they do on the ground are two different things. They need to separate the results – good or bad – from their personal lives. I have seen a lot of cases where players don’t do that. When they are playing well, they are high on confidence and feel everything in their life is good. Similarly, when they hit a rough patch, they feel it’s the end of the world. That needs to be avoided.”

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Elite athletes say that surrounding yourself with the people you love helps because your friends and family are the ones who like you as a person and not necessarily for what you do out on the field of play. “You have to make sure the right people have influence on you. Family and friends are massive because they know the person you are. They like you regardless of whether you are an international Cricket er or not. You don’t have to please them. You can be yourself around them. They keep you grounded,” England Cricket er Ben stokes He had told us last April. Paddy Upton, however, warns against excessive dependence on family and friends. “In many cases, the love you receive from your family depends on doing well in sports. Indian parents and families, in particular, are guilty of doing so more frequently. The focus should be on surrounding yourself with the right people.

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An additional complication for athletes is the expectation that society has of them to stay hard. Any vulnerability is seen as a weakness. Track and Field Athlete Dutee Chand says, “Every professional athlete has fear, doubts and negative thoughts. But people expect you to just ignore them and move forward. Even certain athletes feel that expressing these things is bad and they can be used against you on the field of play.” Many feel that the media glare and fan attention to their mental health troubles would derail their careers, and hence do not speak out. “I was scared that if I went to a psychologist, people would write in the newspapers. So I put on a brave front,” says former Indian Cricket er Maninder Singh, who dealt with depression and alcoholism in the twilight of his career in the 1990s.

Despite the stigma, an increasing number of athletes are now stepping away from that ‘pressure cooker’ as soon as they find themselves in the middle of a downward spiral. 22-year-old Cricket er Aryaman Birla, who was part of the IPL team Rajasthan Royals and the Madhya Pradesh Ranji team, took an indefinite sabbatical from the game in December, citing “severe anxiety related to the sport”. He says, “My anxiety was very directly related to the sport. It’s a feeling that is very claustrophobic. I did deal with it for a while and tried to tide over it while playing the game. However, it did come to a point where I felt that taking a break was the best option for me. This decision was extremely tough, and highly emotional, as one can imagine. These sort of calls are very individual-centric and whatever works best for that particular person, must be respected.”

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Athletes argue that having a professional support system can help remove this stigma around mental illness. An increasing number of professional sportspersons and teams now opt for full time psychologists or mental health coaches. A few months ago, Harmanpreet Kaur, the Indian women’s Cricket captain in T20Is, urged the BCCI to appoint a psychologist for the team. “Nowadays, the pressure is high. You need someone to discuss things when they are not fine,” she had told the media. Indian hockey player PR Sreejesh agrees with this trend. “I have the experience of so many years, I don’t need to get advice from a person on that. But sometimes when you feel like you need to share something with someone and you are not comfortable talking about it to the coach or other players, then you keep it to yourself. These are areas where psychologists can help you,” he said in an interaction last month.

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But as most athletes point out, the self-realisation that your sporting performance does not determine your worth is the key to overcoming any anxiety or related mental health issues in sports. “There will always be some form of performance pressure, and acknowledging that is important. But understanding that even the best cannot always perform and that giving my best is more important, has helped me a lot,” sums up Aryaman.

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