Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 07, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — As the world’s top athletes converge in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leading mental health experts are calling for a cultural shift that encourages those with mental health challenges to seek help.
Dr. Michele Nealon, Psy.D., president of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology says we need to fight mental health stigma and promote a culture of mental wellness among not only Olympic athletes, but also student and professional athletes.
“When athletes are constantly pushing for physical excellence, living in a highly competitive environment and in the public spotlight being measured as either winners or losers, the psychological toll eventually catches up, “ she says. “Psychological strain and pressure are much harder to diagnose than torn tendons and sprained muscles. Early intervention is the key to avoiding a mental health crisis.”
The issue of mental health in sports became part of the national conversation last year after tennis star Naomi Osaka courageously opened up and shared her personal journey with depression. The discussion was amplified when U.S. superstar gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from competition at the Tokyo Olympics, choosing her own health and mental health well-being over demands to perform
“Athletes are opening up more and more about the mental strain they experience and, for many, the devastating results over the long haul. For all of us watching, this is a compelling reminder not to delay seeking professional mental health help,” Dr. Nealon adds.
A 2018 report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine which reviewed 52 studies involving 13,000 elite athletes from 71 sports notes that a lack of understanding about mental health, busy schedules and gender stereotyping are key disincentives to athletes seeking help.
Dr. Nealon urges the public to have empathy and compassion for athletes who are under pressure, including youth engaged in competitive sports. “Mental illness affects one in three elite athletes every year,” she says. “The elite sports culture, with its intense training demands and constant drive to improve performance, heightens the reluctance of athletes to admit mental health strain and delays much-needed support.”
According to Dr. Nealon, competitive sports tends to socialize athletes to value toughness, glorifies pain tolerance and emphasizes the need to compete against all odds.
“Coaches and sports organizations have a responsibility to shift the message from ‘win at all costs’ to ‘there is no health without mental health.’” Dr. Nealon says. “We need to normalize discussions about depression and anxiety and make mental health treatment easily accessible to athletes at all levels. Remember: there is no health without mental health.”
About The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Integrating theory with hands-on experience, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology provides education rooted in a commitment to innovation, service, and community for thousands of diverse students across the United States and globally. Founded in 1979, the nonprofit, regionally accredited university now features campuses in iconic locations across the country (Chicago, Southern California, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Dallas) and Online. To spark positive change in the world where it matters most, The Chicago School has continued to expand its educational offerings beyond the field of psychology to offer more than 35 degrees and certificates in the professional fields of health services, nursing, education, counseling, business, and more. Through its engaged professional model of education, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and an extensive network of domestic and international professional partnerships, The Chicago School’s students receive real-world training opportunities that reflect their future careers. The Chicago School is also a proud affiliate of TCS, a nonprofit system of colleges advancing student success and community impact. To learn more,visit thechicagoschool.edu