What Happens to Athletic Coaches Living with Mental Illness?

I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder in 2014 after 2 psychotic episodes in my early to late twenties when I literally lost touch with reality. Thanks to excellent treatment by mental health professionals and unconditional support from my caregivers, I was able to go back to work, but relapsed in my late thirties after two suicides in my family and social networks. A  few life changes later, I was unable to follow instructions, process information and became socially anxious. Today it is a burden for me and my loved ones that I need to undergo rehabilitation and find a new direction for my life.

The world of sport is not immune to mental illness as it can strike anyone regardless of age, race or socio-economic background. There are many professional athletes who struggle daily with their illnesses. Some athletes, are open about their diagnoses while others suffer in silence. Unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness does not align well with high performance situations. Athletes, musicians and entertainers are no different from any other human beings on this planet. A 2012, New York Times article titled “With no one looking, mental illnesses can stay hidden,” prompts me to ask the question about what are the long term outcomes of athletic coaches with mental health conditions?

Visit to United States Olympic Training Center, Colorado, Colorado Springs. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2008.

Visit to United States Olympic Training Center, Colorado, Colorado Springs. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2008.

My illness has no cure and it is something I will have to manage carefully for the rest of my life, by taking medication and undergoing therapy. During the summer of 2008, my sister Miriam, invited me to visit Colorado where I visited the United States Olympic Center’s Training Center in Colorado Springs. At the Center, I saw the above inspirational quote by Juan Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee. This resonated with me since my life has been enriched with, through and by sport. Setbacks occur, but life goes on. My onward journey will be to practice greater self-care and be a resource for others with mental illness, in a voluntary capacity, whenever possible.

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Filed under Coaching, Education, Poverty, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Youth Development, Youth Sport

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