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Leading the Global Shift of High Performance Youth Development

Athlete Development: Mental Health

There’s nothing we love more than raising awareness about the importance of taking care of the mental wellbeing of our young athletes. The de-stigmatization of mental illness is increasing with every year that goes by. We have tremendous campaigns to get us talking about mental health. Campaigns that may have opened the doors for so many incredible athletes to share their stories about living with depression or anxiety or challenges that come about when concussions have impacted their lives. We are, without question, moving in the right direction.

However. I misspoke. There is something we love more than raising awareness. We love the next step. We love the idea of going beyond raising awareness. We love talking about, teaching about it, and encouraging youth (and adults alike) to start thinking about how they can not only seek help…but help.

We need to be more vigilant in supporting those dealing with mental illness. We need to be open and non-judgemental. We need to encourage complete wellness in our athletes and support, rather than inadvertently shame, those who need us.

There are several signs you can be on the look out for whether in conversation or behaviour.

Does your athlete appear to be:

  • Withdrawn
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Not getting things done
  • Overwhelmed
  • Irritable
  • Unhappy
  • Indecisive
  • Tired/sick/run down
  • Experiencing recurring injuries
  • Recovering from concussion

Plain and simple does something just seem off… If something seems off it likely is. You may be hearing or seeing something that you do not usually see or hear; you may be hearing or seeing something that seems unusual. Again, trust that feeling and ask some questions. This can be done in a variety of simple ways:

Be Aware…

  • Notice Opportunity
    • An event in the media can provide an opening to discuss something you may suspect is relatable to your athlete.
    • An experience a teammate or someone in their sport is going through can provide a nice opening.
    • A question they may ask you can provide a excellent opportunity to further inquire.

Pay Attention…

  • Know their preferred method of communication. This will allow you to notice when something is different

Start the Conversation...

  • Please help me understand more about…
  • Be Curious!!!

Simply asking questions and showing individuals that you are paying attention and are concerned about their wellbeing is an amazing start. How refreshing for an individual who may be struggling to hear you say – “I don’t know…”. Whatever you choose to do just be sure to be a positive social responder who does not ignore, who does not judge, and who allows them to maintain their dignity in this difficult time.