Sprint athlete, Jack Green is representing Team GB in Rio and earlier last week qualified to compete in the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles. Speaking with the BBC shortly after qualifying, Green commented on the mental and physical difficulties of the sport and stated he had made “steps forward” in relation to improving his mental health. Green previously claimed he had been ‘hard on himself’ with regards to his ranking and believes this contributed to his struggle with depression. Sometime after the last Olympics, Green made the decision to take a break from sport, focusing instead on managing his experiences with depression. Green’s openness about his depression and working with professionals in order to be in a “great place”, further encourages athletes and sports fans to seek help and management for mental health problems, especially as Green attributes enhanced performance to his better mental well-being.
Psychological research offers a variety of probable stressors that can contribute to the development of a depression. However, research on depression is limited in relation to athletes, though there are studies that offer insight into possible causes of depressive symptoms for some. Athletes can be strongly goal orientated and are likely to strive for perfection, therefore it is not surprising that they are particularly ‘hard on themselves’ when facing failure. Certain research suggests ‘over training’ can result in chronic fatigue, as well as depression, although there are many other complex factors that can lead to such outcomes and simply stating ‘over training causes X and Y’ is a drastic simplification of a multifaceted condition. As expected, a study investigating failure-based depression among Canadian varsity swimmers found that highly ranked elite athletes had an increased vulnerability to depression, especially following unsuccessful performance. Studies such as these are of great importance and contribute to the growing literature on mental health care for sports-persons.
Jack Green is a strong and needed advocate for mental health care for athletes and young people alike. Discussing mental health during a sporting event such as the Olympics, positively opens the dialogue reaching many, increasing awareness of the importance of mental health care and diminishing the idea that those with superior physical fitness are exempt from suffering prevalent mental health difficulties, such as depression.