The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health and Sports

In the world of sports, the topic of mental health carries a stigma that is tied to weakness. As many athletes work their entire career to become the strongest competitors and performers possible, not many want to admit to their internal struggles. Because most athletes are considered to be extremely physically healthy, many assume that mental health issues are not as common in athletes. This assumption is far from the truth.

Athletes are exposed to a range of factors and situations which make them vulnerable to developing mental health issues. These circumstances include but are not limited to:

  • The stress and pressure that comes with competing
  • Injuries
  • Dealing with bad performances
  • Overtraining/Burnout
  • Issues with teammates or coaches
  • Aging/Retirement

Though these factors exist in all sports, they are heightened within collegiate and professional sports. There is a greater spotlight on these athletes because their competitive stakes are higher, and many of them are viewed as role models. Because of the negative stigma surrounding mental health, collegiate and professional athletes are pressured into hiding their mental struggles. The idea that seeking help makes them seem “weak” remains one of the largest barriers for athletes to pursue treatment.

It is imperative that we work to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and provide athletes with adequate resources to cope with their stressors. Organizations and coaches need to prioritize providing their athletes with resources such as a sport psychologist or mental wellness coach. By having a sport psychologist on staff, athletes are more likely to deal with their mental health struggles instead of hiding them. This normalizes the topic of mental health within the organization and leads to a more positive and nurturing environment for athletes to work and grow.

Below are mental health resources for athletes:


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