According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year. Every mental illness must be taken very seriously and depression is one that causes people to lose pleasure from daily life, can complicate other medical conditions, and can even be serious enough to lead to suicide. Because of the lives of professional athletes are thought to be highly desired by many Americans of the public, it can be surprising when successful professional athletes can admit to struggling with depression. Athletes like American swimmer Allison Schmitt speaking openly about struggles with depression shed light on an important subject that can affect anyone of any age, socioeconomic background, and status.
Allison Schmitt is a five-time five-time Olympic medalist who had terrific success during the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Among the five medals that Schmitt won were three gold medals for swimming events such as the 200-meter freestyle and in team relays 4×100 freestyle. Following that success, Schmitt recently revealed secretly living with what she now describes as “post-Olympic depression”. She felt compelled to speak out following the suicide of her first cousin, a Division I basketball recruit, earlier this month. In describing her own internal struggles, Schmitt mentioned that she “didn’t like myself. I didn’t like that I was feeling like that. I thought if I suppressed it, it would go away. But it was something where I needed help from outside sources.” She continues to battle her post-Olympic depression to make a run at her third Olympic appearance and said she plans to be more active in her mental health advocacy by opening up herself and making athletes aware that help is available.
Depression affects people of various ethnicities as well. Earlier this year, former NBA All-Star guard Stephon Marbury told HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel about his considerable struggles with depression following the end of his NBA career. While he mentally agonized over his on-court failing with the New York Knicks, the death of his father, and the dissolving of his sneaker company also struck Marbury very hard. He admitted that he “wanted to kill myself some days. I did. … It wasn’t about basketball. It started to become about me. Because I was that depressed and I was that sick.” Marbury has found new success playing professional basketball overseas for the Chinese Basketball Association in 2010. He has earned All-Star honors and led the Beijing Ducks to the CBA title. Being in a new environment and in a new country has been helpful for Marbury’s internal struggles.
The most successful professional athletes in the world must often hide any weaknesses to their opponents in competitive settings. The concealing of weaknesses is something that everyday people often do to hide any mental or internal struggles in life that they have. Professional athletes sharing their issues with depression can lead to people understanding and getting the mental health issue they are having evaluated or resolved.