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Mental illness in sports: Why athletes don’t always seek help

Mental illness in sports: Why athletes don't always seek help

Today’s New York Times offers a look at something that “exists at every level of sports” but is often ignored: Mental illness. William C. Rhoden writes:

Sports too often is a masking agent that hides deeply rooted mental health issues. The better the athlete, the more desperate to reach the next level, the less likely he or she will reach out for help. The gladiator mentality remains a primary barrier.

“Mental health has a stigma that is tied into weakness and is absolutely the antithesis of what athletes want to portray,” said Dr. Thelma Dye Holmes, the executive director of the Northside Center for Child Development, one of New York’s oldest mental health agencies, serving more than 1,500 children and their families.

A Stanford psychiatrist, himself an accomplished athlete, also weighs in:

“They believe nothing can go wrong, they don’t need help, they can overcome,” Dr. Ira Glick, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a telephone interview.

He added: “And just for that alone, they don’t want to go to therapy either for psychotherapy or medication. You have to start to change the culture beginning in Little League, imbue in them from the time they are Little League players.”

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