The New Sports Epidemic

lone_runnerAthletes are a special breed of people as they have something in them that makes them constantly push to be the best. For the best athletes in the world it is a lot more than the natural gifts they are born with. The best players in the world are the best because of a specific mentality they possess above the rest of us. Athletes can ride their natural talents so far and earn a lot of respect and adoration for just their athletic ability. For some simply relying on their athletic ability is not enough to make them a true athlete. For people like Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school basketball team, and Wayne Gretzky, who is probably the least athletic looking professional athlete, it was something else that drove them to stardom. Players like these two have a specific mentality when it comes to sports as it is not good enough to be just good. Instead they aim to be the best in everything they do and they use a specific mentality to do just that. Players like Jordan, Gretzky, and Brady are all born with some athletic talent that they take to another level through their work ethic. They are not satisfied with anything they do and they continue to work harder than anyone in the sport to be the best. This mentality is what separates the great from the good as they are willing to go through more to be the best. Not every athlete has this mentality but they all share one thing no matter what level of sport as all athletes are considered something above the regular men and women of the world. They are the physical specimens that children look up to and fans adore or despise. The problem is that these athletes may have athletic ability and a work ethic that separates them from us but in the end they are just people. Their minds are just as fragile or even worse than most people. After a lifetime of being able to do whatever they wanted, in sports terms, an injury or illness can completely change their world. They can get frustrated just like everyone else and they can even suffer from mental illnesses. The sports world is beginning to realize this more and more in the last few years as mental illness has become a major issue across the sports world.

It can be considered the new sports epidemic as mental illness has made itself known in every major sport throughout the world. There are a number of theories that people have associated with this new phenomena of mental illness in sports. Many explain it through brain damage in contact sports and others see it as a pre-existing condition that came out at another time. However it is created the fact is that there have been too many athletes who have died because of mental illness. In my article Depression Stigma Needs to Stop in 2011 I began to talk about the stigma in sports about mental illness. Since 2011 the problem has not stopped as it has instead grown with more and more athletes taking their lives due to mental illness. The problem seems almost unsolvable as athletes suffer in silence due to the remaining stigma about mental illness. Luckily though, the conversation is beginning to take place about mental health. After numerous tragedies in and outside of the sports world have put mental illness in the forefront of the world as it is becoming more common and not looked down on as much. One of the major contributors to this is Bell Media who hosts their Bell Let’s Talk Day every February the 12th based on a simple theory. The theory is essentially getting people to talk to each other because the only way to get help is to tell someone who you are having problems. It is a simple yet very effective theory that essentially tells those suffering with mental illness should speak up because it is not as bad as they might think. With a host of athletes involved in this cause mental illness is losing its stigma slowly but surely in the sports world. Mental illness should never be laughed at or brushed off and the sooner the sports world realizes that the sooner we will stop hearing stories of players like Junior Seau or Rick Rypien. Even if these athletes have a different mentality than us that makes them separate of us they are still humans that have many of the problems that the rest of us have and like us they need to start talking about it if we ever hope to stop tragedies from continuing to rock the sports world.

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