Mental Wellness in Competitive Sports

Mental health is an aspect of health that describes mental well-being and is a component of holistic well-being.  Being well at the mental health level is part therefore of the overall individual’s health and describes the situation beyond absence of illness.

What is mental health awareness? These are the multifaceted efforts aimed at reducing all forms of stigma involving mental illness and all other attendant mental health conditions chiefly through encouraging individuals to share their own personal experiences. Mental health may result into the following;

  • Psychotic disorders.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Personality disorders.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Impulse control and addiction disorders.
  • Factitious disorders.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders.

Some of these disorders can lead to suicidal behaviors. Suicide also occurs within the contexts of a major depressive episode; psychotic drugs use and alcohol consumption.

Those in competitive sports may be more at risk of suicide behaviour both at ideation and intent levels. This may be due to the pressure to perform, adapting to the sudden windfall of large financial winning, relocations, handling managers and sponsors, family pressures and media among others.

Suicidality refers to a wide range of thoughts and behaviors which include passive ideation (thoughts about not wanting to live anymore); lethal attempts to end one’s life and non-suicidal self-injurious behavior which include acts of self-harm.

According to the Mayo Clinic (USA), some of the symptoms or suicide warning signs include:

  • Talking about suicide; for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
  • Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills.
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone.
  • Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next.
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence.
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation.
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns.
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly.
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this.
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above.

These Warning signs/symptoms present differently from one individual to the other.  It is thus urgent for those in competitive sports to get  awareness and the empowerment to help them come out and share on any stressing concerns. An increase in deaths through suicide has been recorded in Kenya in the last five years among those in competitive sports. Thus, the need for awareness creation and support in this area remains a pressing issue.

We tackle ‘Personality Disorders’ next, see you then!

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Written By;

Rev’d. Dr. James N. Mbugua PhD.

Mental Wellness Expert

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