Athletes represent the peak of human potential, but they are still people. Mental illness affects 35% of elite athletes, manifesting as stress, eating disorders, burnout, or depression and anxiety. In this video, we discuss how stigma surrounding mental illness in sports prevent athletes from seeking treatment, and how a recent movement of elite athletes coming forward with their struggles has opened the gate for others.

Additionally, in this video we discuss two mental health struggles that uniquely impact athletes, performance anxiety and loss of identity, and the factors that contribute to these struggles. Lastly, we conclude with skills and resources that are available specifically for athletes, and those around them, in order to learn to recognize, and seek help for mental health and illness struggles.

Remember mentally ill does not mean mentally weak. It is important that we normalize athletes showing emotion and caring about their health and wellbeing.  

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Author Details


  • Burns GN, Jasinski D, Dunn SC, Fletcher D. Athlete identity and athlete satisfaction: The nonconformity of exclusivity. Personal Individ Differ. 2012 Feb 1;52(3):280–4.
  • Gustafsson H, Martinent G, Isoard-Gautheur S, Hassmén P, Guillet-Descas E. Performance based self-esteem and athlete-identity in athlete burnout: A person-centered approach. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2018 Sep 1;38:56–60.
  • Purcell R, Gwyther K, Rice SM. Mental health in elite athletes: Increased awareness requires an early intervention framework to respond to athlete needs. Sports medicine-open. 2019 Dec 1;5(1):46.
  • Küttel A, Larsen CH. Risk and protective factors for mental health in elite athletes: a scoping review. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2020 Jan 1;13(1):231-65.
  • Schinke RJ, Stambulova NB, Si G, Moore Z. International society of sport psychology position stand: Athletes’ mental health, performance, and development. International journal of sport and exercise psychology. 2018 Nov 2;16(6):622-39.
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