Athletes should not face criticism for opening up on mental health issues

Athletes are often labelled as ‘soft’ or ‘quitters’ when they take mental health breaks


Athletes may be superstars, but they are human too, and deserve the same mental health breaks that everyone else gets. (Photo via Unsplash)

Professional athletes are often seen as larger than life and people don’t realize that they face the same mental battles that everyone else does. 

Athletes deserve mental health breaks and they shouldn’t be criticized for taking time to better their mental well-being. 

Recently, many professional athletes have spoken out about mental health issues and have taken needed breaks. NBA player Kevin Love, gymnast Simone Biles and NFL player Dak Prescott are examples of those who have broken the stigma of toughing it out.

These athletes did something very courageous, but it came with criticism from people who don’t understand the mental burden that athletes carry. 

NBC Sports Washington writer Ryan Homler detailed how Fox Sports analyst Skip Bayless criticized Prescott when he opened up about depression.

“On the show ‘Undisputed,’ Bayless stated that he understood the seriousness of mental illness but that Prescott’s standing as an NFL quarterback means he needs to rise above the problem and be there for his team,” Homler said in a 2020 NBC Sports Washington article.

Biles withdrew from the 2021 Olympics for mental health reasons and also faced backlash. Biles said in a 2021 Associated Press article that athletes are human too. 

“There are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with as well, on top of sports,” Biles said.

Love said that athletes that come out about these issues aren’t soft. 

“To be in the NBA, you’re not soft … In the end, it was the best thing I did and it’s only going to help you moving forward,” Love said in a 2018 ESPN interview.

These athletes took the proper steps towards taking care of their mental health which is the most important thing. 

It’s not just the top athletes that face mental challenges. According to a 2019 article by Athletes For Hope, an organization that educates and inspires athletes to make the world a better place, only 10% of college athletes with mental health conditions seek help.

I think these sports stars opening up about their mental health issues will help show college athletes that they should open up about their own struggles. People look up to these athletes and their messages let younger athletes know that they are not alone.

We need to continue to create an environment where athletes can feel comfortable speaking about their mental health issues. The time we give athletes to recover mentally is as important as the time we give athletes to recover physically.