Before the introduction of social media and the multiple streaming platforms for broadcasts, rarely would you read or hear someone from the professional world of sport, admit suffering from or talk about their mental health.

They were almost seen to be immune from it all, perform in their sport accordingly, without a hint of any issues lingering in the background that would say otherwise. It’s only until recently, that there seems to be a growing number of athletes that are opening up with struggles not just in the present, but across a number of years throughout their career, too.

Names like Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, along with NBA All-Stars, Kevin Love and Paul Pierce, have opened up about depression and anxiety but why is it important that more professional athletes do this?

Elite sport is constantly in the public domain. Whether that’s a social media post, a live event on a streaming platform or a meet and greet, there is an element that fans may not understand what it’s like to be constantly under the spotlight.

Armchair fans tweeting or ‘trolling’ athletes around how well they have done, or competitors training to near-perfection, meaning a victory will feel incredible but a loss may be a crushing blow, especially if expectations are not met.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five American adults has a mental illness. There was a void, before social media and campaigns where there was a stigma attached to discuss issues.

As more and more athletes talk about what they are going through, fans, followers and even those who may not follow sport but know names, it can be seen as a positive step going forward and encourage more people, old and young, to take the step to address their mental health.

Originally written by John Affleck on The Conversation.

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