Mental health


Horrible.

There's no industry demanding top performance to make your living but sports.
Since childhood.

A rising topic lately and it's about time to be addressed through the entire continuum of development and across all levels of activity.
 
Agree horrible and glad you raised the topic. But is this the right forum? How did doping contribute to this tragedy?
Even though unrelated to doping, I think this is the right place to discuss.
Concerns well-being of the athletes and the credibility of the sport.
If you think there's a better place for the thread, suggest it to moderators.
The Clinic looks fitting to me and I don't think it should be exclusively doping-related.
 
Even though unrelated to doping, I think this is the right place to discuss.
Concerns well-being of the athletes and the credibility of the sport.
If you think there's a better place for the thread, suggest it to moderators.
The Clinic looks fitting to me and I don't think it should be exclusively doping-related.
The Clinic means the topic can be discussed openly including any contribution to mental health impacts that doping might make. Example pressure to perform made greater by dopers. But let the mods handle it.
 
Not related to cycling, but a similar case to Podmore may have ocurred in track & field with the death of Cameron Burrell, son of former 100m WR holder Leroy Burrell and godson of Carl Lewis.

Cameron was an 100m sprinter (PB of 9.93s in 2017 and 2018) and Red Bull athlete who this winter was the world's 18th fastest runner on the 60m indoor. Saw a piece where he said he would like to go to Tokyo but he didn't managed to break the 10s barrier this year and didn't meet que qualification requirement for the US athletes.

Nothing official but from what I could gather he would be struggling with his mental health recently.
 
Reactions: sir fly

Horrible.

There's no industry demanding top performance to make your living but sports.
Since childhood.

A rising topic lately and it's about time to be addressed through the entire continuum of development and across all levels of activity.
Although on the one hand I'm glad the topic is adressed more, something about it still doesn't feel right - in all areas of society. It's always this "okay, you don't need to perform 24/7 every day for 15 years, it's okay if you take a time-out somewhere in between, get help and then you come back stronger."
But what if someone doesn't come back stronger? What, if it can't be rather easily fixed with some therapy? What if it's a life-long struggle against demons?

Also I feel with this "mental health" sticker everything gets thrown into the same basket (lol, you probably can't say it like that in English...), when there are huge differences between the individual problems.

Okay, so much for the general topic.
About sports, I think there are a few specifics, one being that it's something most people get into while they are really, really young - in cycling rather late actually, but in other sports often at the age of 4, 5, 6, and often they have parents who really care about sports a lot.
So, basically, this becomes their whole life, before they have a chance to discover anything else. Everyone they have a closer connection to is involved in this world. They often don't have the time to persue other friendships more closely anymore, their best friends are often pretty involved in the sport, too. Their parents are. When they get home, the talk in the family will likely be very much centered around this topic (that's at least my experience). Either the parents will be really interested in their child and what it does or, expecially in smaller sports, they themselves have a history in that sport, so they get really invested.

So, the good thing about it can be, the child starts to get a positive body image because it sees how strong it is, what it can do, and it's not as dependent on what other people think of it (especially at school, grades and cool cliques can be less important than for other teenagers). But on the other hand they can start getting really dependent on their success in this sport, because they basically have nothing else in their life.

It gets very hard to develop an identity separate from the sport. It also gets very hard to develop a self-image that doesn't involve sportive success. And in many sports it also gets difficult to not srutinize your body under the criteria the sport sets. (Apart from weight issues, also injuries can weigh on you heavily - you can feel very vulnerable and helpless if you depend so much on your body working perfectly. In many sports you will get supported through bad times, but in others you won't, especially for instance in sports like football, where there's an abundance of talents just waiting to take your spot.)

Anyway, what is intrinsic motivation here? After all, is intrinsic motivation not often internalized early expectations from your parents or other people close to the very young you?
I think for many athletes it's quite hard to seperate themselves from their parents. This is certainly not behind all the mental problems, but to me it seems to be a factor. Many are still really close to their parents in their 20s or longer.

They also have learned to be extremely disciplined and often to not listen to their body. That depends on the coaches of course, but in many sportive environments, and I think the US gymnastics of past years are only the most obvious case here, you learn that pain is good, that you shall not stop because something doesn't feel right, that you cannot trust your own body feelings. Basically exactly the opposite of what every child is told in sexual abuse prevention.
Often you learn that you have to listen to other authorities, the coaches, people who know better, that you just have to do it, you have to keep the schedules, the instructions. In the best case this forms strong, disciplined individuals who can work hard and don't need a direct reward for everything. But of course, if not applied with enough empathy - and the empathy is often lacking in coaching, not least because they are very ambitious individuals looking for personal success themselves, and also because they themselves have been taught like this - it can also lead to young people who don't trust their own feelings and learn to just "function".

All in all - sports even on a youth level, even in environments which don't appear to be at the highest level yet, are often not very nice environments. They can be a source of happiness, but they can also teach young people some very wrong things.

An additional topic are the athletes who are always great in their sport, they are always the best on youth level, they never learn that it's okay to fail, that failure doesn't mean death but that you can survive and find happiness again. Everyone is applauding them for their success - so how can they learn that they will still be loved when the success isn't there?

What can be done?
In my opinion there are several steps to at least help a bit:
  • Make young people trust in their bodies. Make them take injuries seriously. Don't say "Indians don't cry, boys don't cry, pain is just weakness..., it's nothing..." to children.
  • Don't make them focus on one sport / discipline too early, I know that's difficult in many sports, where hours and endless hours of routine are necessary if you want to reach the top, but if it was my child, I would always try to get them involved in a few other things / sports as well, and I think someone like van der Poel shows that this is a good thing, that having fun and doing different disciplines is something that can really give motivation.
  • As parents: Take them out for an occasional party, shopping trip, nature weekend, whatever...
  • As parents and coaches: Don't say things to them that make them constantly link their self-image with their success in sport.
  • Societies can help by setting up programs which help the transformation from athlete to other job-taker. If someone has been a very good athlete in a young age, but then "didn't make it" for whatever reason or has to give it up before they make a fortune, don't make them see that as a failure, but show them how they can use what they have learned in other areas (if they want to), for instance they will usually have learned discipline and hopefully also self-responsibility, or maybe they learned about nutrition or such things...
  • Teach them how to stand on their own feet: Some athletes are great at this, because they went to training camps early, trips to other countries or places, where they had to organize themselves. If however you put them in a boarding school where everything is done for them and they don't learn how to cook or wash their things or think of things themselves, if all that anybody cares about is their sportive performance, that is of course not very helpful.
Regarding top athletes: I think that is way more difficult. Most of the self-image has developed by then. Of course we should stop shaming people for bad performances - well, in my eyes it's okay to joke a bit about it as long as it's clear that this does not mean the athlete as a person has failed, that it's just a certain area that's affected - but honestly this aspect is very difficult. Of course sportive competition, pro sports, get everything from judging and rating. Once you have taken that path, it's clear that you will be judged - and in public.
In my eyes it makes it even more important that the athletes are prepared when they reach that stage, that they know they are worthy as people and that sportive success just comes on top. That just because people say bad things about them, that doesn't mean they are bad. But yeah, that's difficult for someone who takes all his strength and ambition from the positive reward they get for a success/ win.
Basically, the attention we give to the winners, is a two-sided sword.

(I am writing a book which deals with this topic on a fiction level, hence my interest in this and the long post...) ;)
 
I don't know how to remedy the situation though.

Sports, at the elite level, are about winning.
Pro sports are about winning at any price.
It's an arms race to win, by any method necessary.

I don't know how you then step back and say we need to address the mental health aspect/costs. I'm really not being cynical, I just don't know how you do it. The pressure is immense to win, to perform, to get better every day, right?

This isn't rec or club sports. It's about winning, money, revenue, advertising dollars.

I'd say the entire capitalist race to make more, do more, see more, live more, etc...is all about winning. And it takes a terrible mental tax on everyone. If you can find someway off the wheel, that is the only hope I can envision.
 
Reactions: noob
So people who spend every day making unfounded accusations on social media that cyclists achievements are all a fraud are now suddenly concerned about their mental health.

Some of you need to have a good hard look yourselves.
I don't see a problem at all with being skeptical of questionable human peformances AND wanting people to lead happy lives.

I don't like cheaters.
I'd like to see athletes who aren't enjoying competing step away before they do something drastic, like suicide.
 
There are many factors that lead to depression and anxiety issues, but I haven't heard that "people are doubting my performances although I'm entirely clean" is a main issue.
Unfortunately people have every reason to doubt top sportive performances, especially in a sport like cycling, and everyone who becomes a pro in this sport should know this. I would imagine it to weigh harder on some clean athletes that they can do what they want, they can't compete with the doped ones and at one point they have to decide how far they are willing to go. How do the clean ones feel if fans just buy every performance of the super-doped ones and hail them without suspicions?
 
Reactions: noob
I don't know how to remedy the situation though.

Sports, at the elite level, are about winning.
Pro sports are about winning at any price.
It's an arms race to win, by any method necessary.

I don't know how you then step back and say we need to address the mental health aspect/costs. I'm really not being cynical, I just don't know how you do it. The pressure is immense to win, to perform, to get better every day, right?

This isn't rec or club sports. It's about winning, money, revenue, advertising dollars.

I'd say the entire capitalist race to make more, do more, see more, live more, etc...is all about winning. And it takes a terrible mental tax on everyone. If you can find someway off the wheel, that is the only hope I can envision.
I don't think pro sport has to be about winning at any price and I think some are genuinely happy, some are so-so, like in every other field.
The pressure sure is very big, but some can take it and some have help, a stable personal environment; a lot also depends on the individual coach, manager, team boss and so on...
When you have people around you who believe in you and help you through the bad times, who see a person in you and not just the performer, that can help a lot.

Then there are other factors for sure, for instance, as a woman, can you have a satisfying personal (family) life, or does the sport make that very hard; are you in a financially stable situation or is that something you constantly have to worry about, if people on social media talk about you, do they only talk about you or are you so famous that your partner and other loved ones also get ugly comments...
All in all I agree that part of the problem lies within the concept of high performance sport, but I don't think it's necessarily an unhealthy situation for everyone.
 
Reactions: noob and nayr497
I don't know how to remedy the situation though.

Sports, at the elite level, are about winning.
Pro sports are about winning at any price.
It's an arms race to win, by any method necessary.

I don't know how you then step back and say we need to address the mental health aspect/costs. I'm really not being cynical, I just don't know how you do it. The pressure is immense to win, to perform, to get better every day, right?

This isn't rec or club sports. It's about winning, money, revenue, advertising dollars.

I'd say the entire capitalist race to make more, do more, see more, live more, etc...is all about winning. And it takes a terrible mental tax on everyone. If you can find someway off the wheel, that is the only hope I can envision.
As already pointed out, it's an industry and it should be appropriately organized.
I doubt anyone would pursue education if it would guarantee the living only to few fractions of a percent of everybody included.
... and requirements of the athletic career are far greater than that of everyday, "normal", life. Yet, a "normal" life often affords more than the sportive one.
Current discrepancies are as if it isn't an industry.

Regarding mental health, it's something attention should be paid at since the beginning, in order to prevent unfavourable consequences.
Educated coaches, familiar not only with the training process but also with personal development, a youth system that doesn't force clubs into the market competition which makes of athletes nothing more than a bookkeeping variable, legislation that subjects all of this...

It's a broad topic and in order to be discussed comprehensively the general, all-inclusive, questions should be avoided and narrowed down to individual aspects (of the matter).
 
Reactions: noob
So people who spend every day making unfounded accusations on social media that cyclists achievements are all a fraud are now suddenly concerned about their mental health.

Some of you need to have a good hard look yourselves.
I personally don't really hold specific cyclists or any other athletes personally accountable for drug usage, cause that's a system they haven't helped create, and if they didn't try to play by the rules, they wouldn't achieve much. And even in a world were every single drug were detectable or where no drugs even existed, you would still find cheaters.

But even the most drugged athletes shouldn't be suffering from mental illnesses, if it can be prevented.
And it seems to me, just like others in this thread, that more could be done in that department, though it isn't only a problem in the sporting world.
 
So people who spend every day making unfounded accusations on social media that cyclists achievements are all a fraud are now suddenly concerned about their mental health.

Some of you need to have a good hard look yourselves.
 
So people who spend every day making unfounded accusations on social media that cyclists achievements are all a fraud are now suddenly concerned about their mental health.

Some of you need to have a good hard look yourselves.
perhaps you need to have a long hard look at yourself as these same people may do that because of their own mental health issues...and in turn you may respond due to yours...then I....oh...

alhough on that topic your man Froome has waded in...presumably not getting results he needs to up his media presence to pay back some of that 5.5m....headlines is leadlines after all. Of course, I wonder about the mental health of those making large investments that don't pay off....mmmmm
 
From a position of ignorance I'd assume suicide rates are higher in sports that incur brain damage (concussion) than they are in the wider population. However, I'm not convinced there is such an association between sports that don't damage your brain and elevated suicide rates.

Manufactured pressure is in all walks of life, academic achievement for example, or physical appearance or more general social conformity. Natural pressure in terms of fighting poverty and ill health also obviously exist. A huge proportion of human beings have a propensity to mental ill health. The figure in Scotland recently was a staggering 16% of the population had had an antidepressant in a calendar year (https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/antidepressant-prescribing-in-scotland-rises-by-almost-3-million-items-per-year-over-a-decade).

My point being, take a an athlete who is miserable out of a sporting environment and they may well be miserable in an alternative environment. It is up to individuals and parents to notice warning signs and take steps. It's why a lad like Dumoulin should be lauded for just taking a step back and getting their priorities straight. Competitive sport may not be a suitable arena for massive proportions of the population.

Coaches' livelihoods are also dependent on results. They will be under pressure to obtain these results and may also have mental health issues. Some will be scumbags, but others will simply be trying to do the job for which they are paid. As long as there is no bullying, harassment or PEDs, and the athlete is free to walk away from the situation, then I'll be giving coaches a free pass. Athletes are adults, not children. Adults have to take decisions about their own welfare as part of human existence. We shouldn't soften the edges of lawful high performance sports coaching because some adults were unable to make the right decision, no matter how tragic those circumstances may be.

A somewhat harsh perspective perhaps, but I'm struggling to see what the alternative is. International regulation of training regimes to minimise hours worked per week etc does not strike me as remotely feasible.
 
Reactions: nayr497
Apart from the bullying and stuff that Podmore might have experienced, I think Naesen explains quite well the feelings when you train as hard as the next person and don't get the reward:

Good interview and some real honesty. Anyone who has played competitive sports has had to deal with this, someone who is just plain better, no matter what you do to improve.

Thankfully, I don't think in my sport, at the time, there was PED abuse. I just learned to accept some guys are just better, no matter what you do. It's the case from the pro level on down.
 
Good interview and some real honesty. Anyone who has played competitive sports has had to deal with this, someone who is just plain better, no matter what you do to improve.

Thankfully, I don't think in my sport, at the time, there was PED abuse. I just learned to accept some guys are just better, no matter what you do. It's the case from the pro level on down.
Accepting that someone is better is one thing, but accepting that someone who you really dislike is better can be a bitter pill to swallow.
 
Reactions: noob and proffate
Maybe Nasaen should try wanting it more than the others.

But seriously it's probably harder to swallow this pill the later in life you finally run into that competitor who's just unbeatable by you. Luckily I found them from a very young age.
 

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