Many athletes suffer from the pressure that is on them to perform all the time. For example, the number-two tennis star, Naomi Osaka, has been suffering from depression since 2018. This year, she withdrew from both the French Open and the German Open. It is unknown whether she will come back strong or fade, as other young athletes have when they suffer burnout.
Why Sports Drive Mental Health Issues
Athletes are under a lot of pressure, and they take risks and compete constantly. They are always trying to reach higher goals. It may be rewarding when they are successful, but it can be devastating when they aren’t. Many people have high expectations, and it is hard for them to escape. Some people can handle this pressure, but it is too much for many others. On top of that, this isn’t related to their ability and skills.
The Case of Robert Enke
The world learned about mental illness in sports with the case of Robert Enke, a leading football star from Germany. He was the best goalkeeper in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but he walked into the path of a moving train in 2009. This left the entire football community stunned. They couldn’t understand it.
His wife let the world know that he had been struggling with depression for years. He hid it due to fear that it would hurt his career, and he was afraid he could lose his eight-month-old daughter. He had suffered anxiety when he was younger and playing with older kids, but he learned to conceal it.
Making Mental Illness Medical
There is a process called medicalizing mental illness where what was seen as a weakness in the past is now considered an illness. Medical experts are able to treat mental health as they would any disease. Rather than considering them social problems or weaknesses, they are treated as medical ailments. The benefit is that it removes the disgrace of the past. This new approach shows that mental illness is treatable and fixable, much like a broken bone. Some athletes come back better than before, but as with any injury, some don’t reach the same levels. However, each person has to decide whether the fame and money is worth the price of their mental health.