Mental health is bigger than just a diagnosis and the labels associated with it. Recently, a number of prominent athletes and celebrities bravely admitted their struggles with mental health. NBA Star Kevin Love in his recent article about his mental illness states that, “Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing.”
As fans on the outside looking in, we may not understand how someone with a million dollar contract could suffer from mental health issues. However, studies have shown that athletes and celebrities are at a greater risk of depression and anxiety. Although they may be superstars that look indestructible, they are human and have emotions that sometimes get the best of them.
Mental health doesn’t discriminate. People from all walks of life suffer from a range of mental illness issues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 45 million Americans or 18.3% of adults deal with a mental health issue of some type throughout their lifetime.
Not enough people talk about mental health and thus, it goes overlooked. The stigma associated with mental illness is widespread. For athletes, they too struggle with the many obstacles that stop someone from seeking proper help, or simply just talking to someone. Kevin Love describes the stigma that he fought growing up playing basketball and the masculine norms that are prevalent in the culture of sports. “Growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act. You learn what it takes to ‘be a man’. It’s like a playbook: Be Strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own.”
This playbook is ingrained starting at a young age and is prevalent in today’s youth culture. Teenage depression is widespread and is largely undertreated due to the reluctance of teens to get treatment. A study by the Rand Corporation indicated that the top reasons why depressed teens don’t seek treatment is the stigma of mental illness and potential negative reaction of family members and friends. Although there are online mental health resources that raise awareness of teenage mental health, stigma itself won’t be broken without the help of role models who can help teens feel confident and comfortable to ask for help.
“Everyone is going through something we can’t see,” says Love.
We too put on our game face when living with mental illness. It is incredibly important for high profile figures to open up about mental health issues and to portray themselves as human beings, not just superstars.
The most recent statements by Love and other prominent athletes and celebrities are important in combating mental health stigma and spreading awareness. New York Giants wide receiver, Brandon Marshall has called mental health awareness and acceptance “The civil rights movement of our era.”
Anyone can be affected by mental health despite his or her level of success. These athletes are viewed as exemplars of success, so for them to speak up is brave and provides a platform.
Here are the three global benefits to society when athletes and celebrities open up about their mental health:
Breaking the Stigma
Stigma is a significant barrier that prevents many individuals with mental illness from seeking proper help “The prejudice and discrimination of mental illness are as disabling as the illness itself. It undermines people attaining their personal goals and dissuades them from pursuing effective treatments”, says psychological scientist Patrick W. Corrigan. When athletes out on mental health issues it chips away at the societal stigma all too often attached to it, while also urging others to be strong to get the proper help.
Many people opt out of treatment altogether to avoid being associated with the negative stereotypes. So when NBA Star, Demar DeRozan, opened up about his mental health it helped his fans feel that they aren’t crazy or weird when they feel depressed – helping them break the stigma.
Inspiring Other People
“I made everyone around me healthy” as said by Kevin Love on the impact that his story has had on those close to him. Opening up about mental health is scary but it is also empowering. Doing so allows people in your life who face similar issues to speak up as well.
Celebrity mental health testimonials tell the world that a person with mental illness can not only manage but thrive in spite of it. “Years ago when Rolling Stone did a story on Bruce Springsteen, and he shared that he was in treatment for many years from depression and thoughts of suicide, I had an influx of young men for psychotherapy,” psychologist and author Deborah Serani tells Forbes. Bruce Springsteen helped other young fans realize that if he was depressed and sought help, they could too.
When athletes and celebrities speak up about these issues, it makes it clear that no one should be ashamed while inspiring others to speak up or at least seek support.
Sparking Important Discussions
Words have power and can help change the long held preconceptions and misbeliefs of mental health. The recent stories from both athletes and celebrities alike have raised the consciousness of our society. These prominent voices have taken on the topic of mental health when many people are uncomfortable talking about it.
As a result, it has started a serious conversation about the topic, while also helping inspire others who deal with similar issues. Conversations about depression and other illness have now moved into the public sphere.
We are human. The more we talk about mental health, the better. It’s important to share your story, in order to help yourself and to help others.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author Bio: Jeremy Divinity is a writer from Los Angeles. He writes with the aim to inspire and motivate.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc.
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