What sports stars can teach us about mental health

By sharing personal stories of struggle, sports stars and other public figures are leading the charge in breaking down the stigma the surrounds mental health.

Mental health affects about one in five Australians – a shockingly high prevalence that extends to the sporting arena, along with every other facet of our society.


In addition to helping drive change by sharing their experiences, sports stars also offer a unique perspective on mental health that few others can.


Managing pressure


While many sports stars appear to live perfect, enviable lives, what is often overlooked is the enormous pressure that sports stars deal with on a daily basis. This includes pressure to be selected, pressure to perform well and pressure to achieve results as a team that satisfy coaches and fans.


Coupled with this is the intense media scrutiny many well-known sports stars are subjected to, where mistakes on or off the field have the potential to ruin reputations and careers.


Pressure and stress are major contributing factors to mental illness, and something that needs to be managed effectively in order to keep the mind healthy.


Building resilience


Successful sports stars also become experts in resilience. The journey of elite athletes invariably weaves its way through devastating losses, failing to be selected, and injuries that can lead to being sidelined for months or even years.


Another challenge is the fact that athletes experience incredible heights of success, only to have their playing careers end relatively early in their 20s or 30s.


Sports stars need to be able to bounce back from these challenges to have any chance of achieving their goals.


Maintaining focus


Maintaining focus becomes that much more difficult for sports stars when premierships are on the line, fans are jeering or being abusive and decisions aren’t going their way.


Focus is a crucial weapon in any sports star’s arsenal, and those that can master it and use it to rise to the occasion have the best chance of success.


Just a few sports stars with insights into mental health



Joel Thompson


Joel struggled with his mental health throughout his playing career, ultimately suffering a breakdown in 2011. Joel sought professional help and ultimately developed the mindset and resilience he needed to deal with setbacks, and continues to manage his mental health. Now he is campaigns and runs mental health programs in schools, businesses and organisations. He shared his story on PickStar's Off-Field podcast.


Sharni Layton


Sharni is a decorated netballer turned AFLW star who openly talks about struggles with mental health. She took six months off in 2017 due to exhaustion and now shares the lessons she’s learned about wellbeing.


Tom Boyd


Retired AFL player Tom Boyd had it all as a Western Bulldogs star achieving the ultimate success with his team. However, Tom could feel that something wasn’t right, and took a leave of absence in 2017 after suffering from insomnia, before deciding to prioritise his mental health and retire from the game in 2018.


Using PickStar to secure the best sports talent for partnerships and campaigns


These and many other sports stars are available to be booked through PickStar to speak about mental health at your event or to participate in your awareness campaign.


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