In the distant past people with psychological problems or mental illness were often treated very poorly. This was largely due to ignorance and the fact that the fields of psychiatry and psychology had not evolved yet. It was not uncommon to find a person with psychosis, for example, chained to the wall in a dark and horrible setting. How times have changed! Today there are medications and tons of therapeutic techniques to help people with any variety of problems mentally from depression to anxiety, adjustment disorders to bereavement, and PTSD to clinical anger.
Because of this dark history, people naturally assumed that having any sort of mental affliction was somehow a character flaw or something to be avoided like a plague, like being possessed or lacking moral fiber. We know so much more today about both the genetic and environmental contributions to depression, for example, and we no longer need to be afraid. Unfortunately because of this history, a stigma surrounding mental illness developed and it might be more prominent in sports where people are supposed to be super human achievers. The truth is the anxiety and depression afflict both the weak and strong alike, and it is nothing at all to be ashamed of or to run from .
Sports Illustrated covered this issue in a great article by Jon Wertheim written in 2003 called “Prisoners of Depression.” If you are interested in this topic you are well advised to read it and decide for yourself if we have changed since 2003. Basically, teams and other athletes sometimes, or often, punish athletes by isolating them if they have mental issues. While a broken leg is socially acceptable and the athlete receives tons of support for breaking a bone, the truth is that being depressed can be much more debilitating, but rather than getting support, these athletes are often pushed aside. While I hope times are changing, there is still work to be done.
If you are struggling with any psychological issue at all, (1) there is no reason at all to be ashamed, and (2) there is tons of help available by qualified licensed psychologists who are sports psychologists too. While you can choose to keep your situation confidential and you might want to, you should never let the stigma influence your decision not to seek help. There are many brave athletes over the years who have admitted to having a psychological problem, and they lead the way to helping millions in the present and future to just seek help.
We are no longer living the the dark ages. Many great NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB players have struggled with and overcome mental illness and you can too. And it does not have to be a serious form of mental illness. Just getting help for a minor adjustment reaction in moving to a new team or getting a new coach, for example, makes perfect sense and can help that person enormously.
Everyone in society benefits when the stigma of mental illness is eradicated. Intelligent and successful professional sports franchises invest in their teams and players by making sure the players get a solid evaluation at the beginning of the season and psychological counseling when needed by the team sports psychologist or an outside psychologist. The end result is healthier and happier employees, a stronger team mentally and a greater chance to win that elusive title too!