Professional sports demands time, energy, and more dedication than the average person can imagine. A recent study by Lynette Hughes and Gerard Leavey of the Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health indicates that this high-pressure, high-intensity lifestyle lead athletes to be susceptible to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Many athletes, striving to be “strong” in a society that stigmatizes mental illness as “weak,” feel unable to open up, but now some of them are stepping forward to share their inspiring stories and be the much-needed change the world needs.
Michael Phelps, for example, has stated, “For the longest time, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness because that’s kind of what society teaches us. That’s especially true from an athlete’s perspective. If we ask for help, then we’re not this big macho athlete that people can look up to. Well, you know what? If someone wants to call me weak for asking for help, that’s their problem. Because I’m saving my own life."
Phelps’ advice is applicable to athletes and beyond. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, each year, about 1 out of 5 American adults experiences mental illness. Instead of making others feel that they should stay silent, we should aspire to help them save their lives. To come forward about mental illness is an act of courage, and should be treated as such.