Taking time to care


Much has been written in recent years concerning the mental health and well-being of elite athletes. Generally, the public expects that elite athletes, because of their wealth and physical prowess, should be resilient and without emotional difficulties – despite the challenges of repeated achievement faced by sports men and women alike.

There are also often difficult transitions linked with advancing age and the end of a playing career. The persistent demands to compete in elite sports can result in anxiety, low –mood, substance misuse, clinical depression and in extreme instances suicide.

One in four people from all walks of life will experience mental health problems and yet stigma and shame prevent people seeking health care. Stigma is arguably an outward sign of shame and both ideas can make a person hide – sometimes not in obvious ways.

Following the deaths of Robert Enke and Gary Speed, the Football Association established the initiative`Time to Change. ‘The proposal has helped to raise the profile of mental ill-health and acknowledges that both physical and mental health is necessary for personal well-being and enjoyment of life generally. There is much that can be done to improve the situation for society and of those involved with elite sports.

Mental ill-health is much misunderstood by society and there is a general fear of ridicule – sometimes from those whom we depend on for balance. High salaries, physical prowess and status will not prevent life from visiting – in all of its testing ways. We need to acknowledge that regardless of reputation or wealth we are all in need of another.