“I don’t need to talk to anybody.”
Because of the perceived weakness and/or stigma, countless people each day turn away from seeking vitally important mental health services that could potentially help their situation. Unlike the ease in which a person go to a physician to treat a physical issue, when it comes to emotional challenges many people immediately dismiss the idea of talking to a professional. Behind the decision to reject mental health support, especially for many athletes, is a sense of pride and an unwillingness to “let their guard down” and show what they consider a weakness (i.e. revealing they are depressed, or dealing with a substance issue). Sadly, the result for people who turn away from the idea of mental health assistance is often continued distress, unhappiness, and performances below what they are are capable of achieving. Admittedly, more attention these days is being directed toward the value of mental health support, but a lot of work still needs to be done.
How mental health assistance can help
So what’s the value in talking to a mental health professional? A lot, actually, beginning with the following:
- It can be cathartic. Simply getting things off your chest in a confidential environment can be very powerful — and sometimes even healing. Since mental health professionals are bound by confidentiality, many clients feel empowered to finally say out loud many distressing thoughts they have harbored, sometimes for years. In fact, it is often through these conversations where potential solutions are found — and problems are inevitably solved as a result.
- Gaining support. Instead of battling an issue all by yourself, there may be strength in numbers by having another person help. Many psychology studies have shown a relationship between social support and wellness, meaning that when we see that we have people on our side, we often gain the strength to overcome great life challenges.
- Insights and critical evaluation. It’s virtually impossible to see personal life situations with an objective eye, especially emotionally-charged issues. A good therapist can help lay out the problem, identify antecedents to the problem, and brainstorm potential solutions that can help.
- Formalizing a game plan. Once a solution is agreed upon, a mental health professional can help specify the steps needed to succeed, as well as evaluate progress along the way to solving the issue.
Not just for “losers” or people with mental disorders
While we have made many great strides in promoting the value of mental health in recent years, there are still too many people with limited views regarding exactly who should be seeking these services. Of course, people who do suffer from mental illness should certainly consider mental health services, but others who simply struggle through stressful periods in their lives should think about working with a professional as well. The point is you certainly do not have to be a loser in sports in order to benefit from mental health support, nor do you need to be a person suffering from enough symptoms that you qualify for a form of mental illness. In fact, if you’re an athlete, you might be surprised to learn of all the mental health skills that have nothing to do with mental illness, but everything to do with performing your best (i.e. learning how to stay calm and focused in pressure situations).
If you’re an athlete who sometimes struggles with your mood, anxiety, focus, anger, or simply balancing all your life tasks, then you might want to consider mental health services. Don’t let the fear of others thinking that you are somehow weak for wanting to talk to somebody, as one of the best ways to find success in life is learning from mentors and others skilled people. Mental health counselors are most certainly worth consideration, especially if you find yourself struggling with performance, happiness, or general life productivity.