Athletes and mental health. It’s an issue.
Today, on World Mental Health Day, World Rowing launches a five-part mini-series with New Zealand rowers Eve Macfarlane and Zoe McBride. Eve and Zoe talk through their own journey with mental health in an open and inspiring interview.
Athletes’ mental health is an extremely important subject and it is starting to be addressed. This is thanks to athletes like Eve and Zoe who have been willing to be open about their own journeys.
New studies have also shed light on the problem that has been around for many years but has not always been addressed.
A recent scientific review of research studies concluded that there is a significant lack in high-quality research regarding athletes and mental health. However, it cited that the existing studies show that athletes experience the same range of mental disorders as the general population, with higher rates among athletes who are injured or approaching retirement.1 This may explain the phenomenon that many athletes identify as the ‘post-Olympic dip’.
The study goes on to indicate that athletes may be less likely to seek treatment or help due to stigma or fear of perceived weakness.
In order to help tackle this problem amongst elite international athletes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) put together a commission of 20 experts to scour existing scientific research and write a consensus paper. The paper was published in May 2019 and concludes that prevalence of mental health disorders among athletes ranges from 4-45 per cent. It also outlines potential treatment pathways for athletes and recommendations for health providers.2 The IOC is currently developing an athlete toolkit for mental health.
In this first video of the five-part series, Eve and Zoe talk about how they realised they needed to get some help. The rest of the series will continue over the coming week.
For help, talk to your family, friends, doctor or coach. There are extensive online resources.
Helpful websites are:
You can read the IOC consensus statement here.
Or search for materials in your native language.
- Rice, S. M., Purcell, R., De Silva, S., Mawren, D., McGorry, P. D., & Parker, A. G. (2016). The Mental Health of Elite Athletes: A Narrative Systematic Review. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 46(9), 1333–1353. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0492-2
- Reardon CL, Hainline B, Aron CM, et al. Mental health in elite athletes: International Olympic Committee consensus statement (2019). British Journal of Sports Medicine 2019;53:667-699.