FunctionallyMental Q&A Blog # 1

Elisa A Escalante / LMSW/ 4-29-2020

Q- Could you discuss athletics and mental health? Especially at the Olympic level.

A- A wonderful question and concern. It’s important to discuss the immense amount of pressure an athlete endures as well as the fact that they are pushing themselves through harsh mental and physical feats. Also, it is not uncommon for mentally ill people to be attracted to sports since it is a well-known coping mechanism/ outlet. This isn’t to say every athlete is mentally ill, and not all mentally ill people want to work out! However, it is possible that someone become addicted to working out. It is possible that some are using their fitness activity to try and ‘erase’ or ‘reverse’ their mental illness. It is also possible, that a healthy minded person was pushed/ pressured so bad in the athletic realm, that their mental health suffered in turn. Human’s need exercise, but as many know by now, to be an athlete means to exercise in an excessive manner that is not actually ‘natural’ for the average person. This isn’t a judgement on my end, more so something I’ve learned through clinical and personal experience. I’ve been physically fit since the age of 15: Cross country, track and field, aerobics, weightlifting, belly dance, CrossFit, powerlifting and now Mixed martial arts. Participating in sports is what held me together through major depression for the past 15 years. Even though sports can help counter mental illness, it can also exacerbate it if it is not used properly. You know how we always say, ‘there is such a thing as using too much of anything.’ Same goes with exercise and social pressures. Athletes are pushing themselves beyond what most humans can take, and then they are suffering through the evil magnifying glass that society creates to project insecurities onto them. Athletes, like celebrities and politicians form together as the countries top 3 “Scapegoats”. Then to think, I’ve only ever been an amateur athlete and competitor and I’ve experienced immense anxiety, fear and crying spells over it; then I try to imagine what it must be like at an Olympic level?! I simply can’t. The Olympics comes once every 4 years and there is no real pay or incentive to want to go for it. Economically speaking, it is absolutely an impractical decision to want to become an Olympian. Yet, there are these incredible humans pushing past all their adversities, possible mental health issue’s and off the wall life distractions and experiences, and they are GOING for it. They go for it for themselves but also knowing a part of the job is to entertain us. They are our entertainment, and we pay for them and cherish them, why do we pressure and hate on them too? It’s a part of a psychological game we play when we seek joy in watching other’s under immense pressure and when we enjoy being that person in that adrenaline junky state. Even I can’t explain it deeply enough, even I enjoy watching two people get into a cage and beat each other up! I also enjoy training in grappling and striking sports. If we want to know more about mental health linked to athletics, think deeper about why we do sports, why we love sports and why we sometimes get addicted to sports.

Q- What should I do if my friend is suicidal?

A- First and foremost, it is important to recognize that with great relationships, comes great responsibility. Or rather, ‘a heightened sense of responsibility’. Remember, even if someone confides to you that they feel suicidal, it does not suddenly make you a therapist, cop, judge, jury, expert of any kind. You are still their family member, coworker, and/ or friend. Act accordingly. Listen. More listening, less talking. If you are afraid you might “say the wrong thing”, don’t say anything. Just listen and be the comfort that you are and offer help. Help should most likely be you gently persuading them to seek professional help. The second question then becomes “But what if they refuse to get help and keep talking about killing themselves?” When the warning signs become obvious and scary, and a person still refuses treatment, that’s when it’s time to call 911. What can they do? Cops can do a welfare check and escort the person to emergency psychiatric services for a suicide assessment/ welfare check & possible hospital admittance. Many are scared to do this because they fear causing their friends or family members to be angry or lose trust. However, many would agree that this risk might just be worth it in order to help your suicidal family member or friend get the help they need and work toward a more stable mental state. This is absolutely all that is in our control. Be careful not to lose sight of freedom of will. Every person I have ever talked to has someone that they care about that needs help but won’t get help. This is very common and ultimately everyone’s mental health is their own responsibility. People tend to take long periods of time in contemplation as they decide on whether they want to continue their sufferings as is. But again, in the case of a suicidal crisis, there is always 911.

Q- Why do generational gaps cause so much friction, especially now a days

A- As easy as it can be to put a person in the category of their generational era and label and stereotype them accordingly, it’s best that we mind our bias and perception of others. Are their themes? Absolutely. As of current there are ways in which we have similarities amongst our peers but we as individuals may also find ourselves relating to people of other eras. Why is the friction and tension on the rise? Perhaps because it is more noticeable and easier to talk about than ever before. Technological advances have made it possible for humans to argue across a wide variety of platforms. We now have more research studies, more knowledge and education than ever before. Unfortunately, as abundant as information is, it’s also very difficult to decipher through. Even with ‘evidenced based research’, people may still interpret what they read differently. I for one, love to study up on generational values and norms. It’s important to know that if someone has specific values and norms, there is a reason for it. We are in large part, a product of our environments: community, household, peers. If you find yourself constantly disagreeing with those of a different era, it may be because you were raised during a different timeframe than them. Humans must adapt and change to what is surrounding them, hence a child that has been raised through a depression may differ drastically from a child that was raised during a booming economy. A child raised during a time trauma silencing was encouraged vs children being encouraged to speak on trauma and mental illness may differ drastically. A generation that tends to leave home at the average age of 18 will differ from a generation that lives at home on average until they are 25. Children growing up in a society that is struggling with war conflicts differ from children being raised during peacetime.

I will be doing anonymous Q&A blogs quarterly. Let me know if you would ever like to contribute a question related to mental health or social issues

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

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