Last week my post was about Mental Health in the elite athlete community. There was a lot to digest.
I'm sure many of you are asking “So where do we go from here?”
Although that is an incredibly complex issue and one that I don't have a full answer for. However, I have my thoughts. When I first ask myself this question these 3 things come to mind fairly quickly.
1) Education and Awareness
The more we know the better. When we have the information we have the ability to take action. This is all about EMPOWERING athletes.
Athletes should be learning about things like the breath and how this affects one’s nervous system. Athletes should be learning about the brain and what happens when we get emotionally hijacked. Athletes should be learning about proper sleep hygiene and how this affects the entire mind-body system!
Athletes should be learning tools and skills to be able to navigate their own minds.
We as a community also need to be talking about the stigma that affects our community more and more. I don’t mean one conversation at the beginning of the year team meeting. The education and awareness needs to be an ONGOING process.
2) Quality Conversation
Communication is constantly preached about in the world of sport. But it’s the quality of that communication that is key surrounding mental health.
We have to check ourselves.
Are we coming to conversations with presence? Are we coming to conversations to listen with our full attention and not necessarily give a response? Are we coming to conversations with an open mind and a demeanor that ALLOWS someone to feel safe with us?
Are you asking hollow “How are ya’s?” and “What’s up’s?” or are you taking time to truly be with someone and understand what is going on in their world?
These things are so important when having conversations surrounding mental health and well-being. We have to make sure that we are committing to being TRULY PRESENT with people when engaging in these conversations. This is what allows us to let the person across from us know that we are safe and we genuinely care. This is when we start connecting and feeling like we are heard and can get the support we need.
3) Proper Programming at Micro, Mezzo and Macro Level
This is an incredibly complex issue and one that I don’t fully have a grasp on yet. There are SO many factors that come into play here with the biggest one being financial. However we have to continue to work at this.
We HAVE to continue to emphasize the mental health and well being of all athletes.
The hard part within athletics is there is SUCH a wide range of resources and what people can afford. I get that.
What I struggle with is buying a piece of equipment (however many thousands on thousands of dollars it is) that will tell whether your athletes are in danger of tearing their ACL, but HAVE NO RESOURCES or SUPPORT IN PLACE for when they do tear their ACL.
This isn't a jab at anyone in particular. It’s a jab at society’s constant and persistent devaluation of mental health and well being. We have to continue to work at putting programming and support in place for Individuals (micro), teams/smaller groups and communities (macro) , and organizations (macro).
So again, this issue will definitely not be solved overnight and I will never claim to have all the answers. I do think these 3 factors play a role and are extremely important as we move forward together on this issue!