Over the past six months, there have been several tragedies in the soccer community worldwide. When you put them all together under one umbrella, it really begins to speak volumes about how depression and other mental health issues continue to affect soccer players and coaches. Over the last six months:• April 30th 2011 - Cheung Sai-ho-Hong Kong National Team player commits suicide • September 7th 2011 - App. State head coach Shaun Pendleton found dead (suicide) • September 26th 2011 - Carlos Tevez-publicly states he has been battling depression and eating disorders • November 25th 2011 - Babak Rafati-Bundesliga Referee tries to kill himself • November 27th 2011 - Gary Speed-Welsh Manager commits suicide
Today, professional athletes are seen as persons who can do no wrong, and because of that, showing weakness is not an option. If they did, it would be analyzed to the Nth degree. The question 'he’s a millionaire! What’s he depressed about??’ is radiating through my mind right now. It’s much easier to smile for the camera and hide those weaknesses until they are out of the spotlight or their career is over. According to the World Health Organization, depression is ranked as the 4th most common disease and by 2020 it is projected to be 2nd. There are many other cases of depression where the end result is not death, however, these cases over the last 6 months should speak volumes. According to ScienceDaily.com who obtained their information from the British Psychological Society, young men are the least likely to seek help when under mental distress or suicidal-maybe even taboo for someone to admit that there is something wrong with them but they are not sure what. If you are an athlete and you break your leg, there are procedures to make sure your leg is fully functional in a certain period of time. Mental illnesses are treatable, but it’s not that cut and dry, making it difficult sometimes for athletes, as well as our youth, to ask for help when they sometimes don’t even know what is going on.
Depression does not just affect adults. This article from 2007 in Sports Illustrated demonstrates the effects of depression on our youth. I happened to coach at Lynchburg College just a few years after this took place in the close knit community of Lynchburg, VA.
There are several programs throughout the world that help raise awareness of mental health illnesses and let the youth of the world, as well as adults, know that they are not alone. There is help-the first step is to ask for it.