Why Awareness Should be Brought to the Struggle of Athletes and Mental Health

Deon Key, Staff Writer

Mental health problems can be a roadblock for everyone. However, one group that experiences this that is not really talked about is athletes. Being an athlete at any level can be an overwhelming experience and, for some, mental health is an ongoing issue.  

Over the past several years many athletes have spoken out about their mental health struggles which have helped bring the issue out in the open. Mental health covers a variety of issues including stress, depression, anxiety, and anger management. The problems that arise due to issues such as these include depression, social anxiety, and social isolation.  

In professional sports, athletes are often rewarded with great wealth and celebrity. However, even these athletes face mental health problems. According to Paul Kasabian of Bleacher Report, former NBA player  Michael Beasley, appearing on The Pivot podcast, discussed his continued problems with mental health, something he’s dealt with for years – even before he starred for one year at Kansas State. 

Beasley told hosts, former NFL players Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder, and Fred Davis, how he reached out and nobody ever took him seriously.

Beasley told them that he tucked his pride by asking for help throughout the times he felt lost and couldn’t find himself, but never received it. 

In the podcast, Beasley told the hosts that “I’ve been trying to find good people for so long, I’m tired bro.” After hearing this, the hosts – specifically Clark and Crowder – told him: “Folks love you, dog,” Clark said. “Nobody wants to see you go through this.”

Crowder added (per TMZ Sports): “You have kids. I have kids. Come to my house. We can get bounce houses for the kids, we can sit back on the porch, drink a couple of beers, drink some wine, hang out.”

The hosts offered support and encouragement to him because he had never received the support and they are all former professional athletes who know what it is like to feel the pressure. 

While Beasley was a famous college and pro player who made millions in his career, it didn’t mean that his mental health was safe, nor is it for any athlete at any level. 

For all athletes, this issue has grown for years, but there seem to be more cases that have gained visibility in recent years, which may be due to the impact of COVID on sports. For athletes who were used to being involved in games, practices, and workouts all of the time, having nothing to do had an impact. Covid increased mental health issues because of economic hardship. An NCAA report from Greg Johnson examined the mental health of student-athletes and the impact of issues on them. In the report, it states, “Mental health concerns remained highest among student-athlete demographic subgroups commonly displaying higher rates of mental distress.”  They were compared to old stats before Covid.  Athletes go through a lot on and off the court and it can cause social anxiety and or depression.