Coaches and athletes alike will tell you that competition is mostly mental. Competing at the highest levels requires both physical and mental endurance, and mental health is just as important as physical health for the people involved. We’re used to seeing athletes during their moments of glory, but these 10 athletes opened up and got vulnerable about their struggles with mental health.
Michael Phelps has reached the peak of his sport of swimming, winning a record-setting 28 Olympic medals (23 of them gold). But despite reaching success at an early age, he still suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. If anything, his achievements only served to make things worse, but he makes the most of his podium to be an advocate for mental health.
The Williams sisters dominated women’s tennis, but it didn’t help them dominate their mental health easily. Together, they’ve won over 120 singles championships, and they often found themselves competing against each other for the title. Both sisters have openly discussed battling debilitating depression during their ascent to the top, along with other challenges they overcame.
Ronda Rousey defined the sport of MMA and made it clear women were a force to be noticed. After reigning as UFC women’s champion, she moved onto the WWE and also took over the realm of sports entertainment. She’s still a global advocate for mental health, focusing heavily on her own battle with depression. Rousey proves that there’s no weakness in caring about your mental health.
Ricky Williams is an NFL legend, with over 10,000 rushing yards over the course of 11 seasons played. However, he suffers from a social anxiety disorder that causes him to take a variety of treatments, including medical marijuana. Williams had a somewhat turbulent career because of his usage of the drug, but it didn’t stop him from remaining popular even into retirement.
Kevin Love is a five-time NBA All-Star and won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s a clutch three-point shooter who can be depended on by his team to come through when it counts.
Despite the success, Love fights depression and anxiety regularly. He is very outspoken about his struggles and uses his free time to advocate for these issues. He was even honored for his efforts by the league.
Amanda Beard won seven Olympic medals and has accomplished nearly everything in her athletic career, including being named American Swimmer of the Year on multiple occasions. Still, she’s open about her struggles with depression, bulimia, substance abuse, self-harm, body dysmorphia, and depression. This caused a lot of problems in her life that she had to overcome.
Delonte West played basketball professionally in both the U.S. and China, although he had a turbulent career. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at a young age and went through a series of arrests and scandals throughout his years in the spotlight. Although his battle became tabloid fodder, his career is a lesson for others about the importance of mental health.
The life of a professional fighter is difficult, and British boxer Tyson Fury is great at it. He’s a two-time world heavyweight champion and fought some of the toughest opponents in several leagues.
However, he’s also quite candid about his struggles with bipolar disorder and depression. He even once contemplated suicide, something he talks about in-depth on boxing legend Mike Tyson’s (who also had well-publicized mental health issues in the past) podcast.
Chloe Kim is the youngest woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal in snowboarding. She already has two at the age of 22, and this helped her grow a large social media following while landing sponsorships with brands like Monster Energy, Roxy, Oakley, and Toyota. Achieving so much at such a young age took its toll on Kim, and she announced she’s sitting out the 2022-23 season to focus on her mental health.
Simone Biles made headlines during the Tokyo Olympics for announcing her taking a break to focus on her mental health. The young twenty-something gymnast has 32 Olympic and World Championship medals so far, and she was a crucial foundation in the country’s Olympic team.
However, all the gravity-defying spins and leaps performed in gymnastics took their toll, and she experienced what’s known in the sport as “the twisties” disorienting her. She’s now an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness.
These athletes are only the high-profile cases – athletes of every age and skill level face mental-health strain. Physical competition involves both the mind and body and both should be regularly exercised and maintained to keep them in peak running condition.
If world-class athletes can experience debilitating depression and anxiety, it can happen to anyone. You are not weak for seeking help before it derails your life.