Mental health, which has taken a blind spot, for the longest time in our lives has finally found some light of recognition thanks to social media platforms where Gen Z and millennials are talking about it more than ever. But is it enough? Is mere recognition without addressing the issue or seeking a coping mechanism of any good?
Here are 5 players who despite being remarkable athletes and an inspiration globally for the sport they play, not just battled but bounced back from the harrowing stride of mental illness. If there is anything you can find common between their stories it is the fact that they couldn’t have done it alone and are now sharing their experiences to extend their support to others.
1. Glenn Maxwell
The Australian all-rounder suffered from a mental health issue back in 2019. He withdrew himself from a 3-match series against Sri Lanka. He took a break for a couple of months to recuperate, only to boomerang with an astounding performance for his team in the Big Bash League. He was lauded for his courage to talk about his mental health issues across the fraternity.
2. Sania Mirza
The lady who made tennis a household name in India and inspired millions, recently opened up about her battle with depression post her wrist injury at 2008 Beijing Olympics. She emphasized on how the unlimited support from her family and seeking professional help made her see in the right direction. She came back stronger and went ahead to win two Commonwealth games for India. She was also the World No.1 player (doubles) in 2015.
3. Michael Phelps
The 28-time gold medal winner across five Olympics is the most celebrated player in the history of Olympics. But that did not make him immune to mental health crisis. The US swimmer had deep bouts of anxiety and depression and even contemplated self-harm as revealed by him in an interview with CNN. He not just conquered his illness but now runs a foundation called the Michael Phelps foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to help others.
4. Dwayne Johnson
He is the ultimate G.O.A.T and one of the most aspirational people on the face of this planet. He had an outstanding career in WWE before moving to Hollywood, popularly known by his ring name “The Rock”. Things weren’t always that great for him. At a tender age of 15 he witnessed his mother attempting to kill herself. After that, he suffered from bouts of depression and often found himself crying and isolating himself. Today, he’s at a much happier place and shares his experience to raise awareness around mental health.
5. Virat Kohli
Yes, our very own King Kohli in 2019 talked about his one on one with mental illness in a press conference at the Holkar stadium, Indore. He said “I've gone through a phase in my career where I felt like it was the end of the world. In England 2014, I didn't know what to do, what to say to anyone, and how to speak and how to communicate. And to be honest, I couldn't have said I'm not feeling great mentally and I need to get away from the game. Because you never know how that's taken.” It was quite a rare public statement perhaps one of the firsts, which gave immense courage to the likes of Robin Uthappa and Aryaman Birla to come out and address their battle with mental illness.
Athletes spend most of their time nurturing their body but the wise ones know, it is the mental fortitude which matters the most. It is high time even for the elite federations and clubs to wake up and smell the coffee and get rid of the archaic rules and social taboo around mental health.