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Spotlight shining on University of Arizona athletes and mental health

Wildcat golfer estimates 75 to 90% of athletes suffer from mental health issues
Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 9:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - When tennis superstar Naomi Osaka dropped out of the French Open due to anxiety, it forced many to take a closer look at the delicate balance between athletes and their mental health.

“Sometimes something like this can spark a revolution,” said University of Arizona golfer David Laskin.

Laskin is also a leader within the athletic department’s health and wellness programs. He said Osaka’s withdrawal could be another step in ending the stigma of mental health in sports.

“Athletes are groomed to mask it, growing up their coaches told them to kind of stay away from talking about it,” Laskin said.

He estimates that anywhere from 75 to 90% of athletes at the university struggle with mental health in some capacity. That can range from performance anxiety to depression and eating disorders to Zoom fatigue.

“It’s just a lot and sometimes,” Laskin said. “It’s just easy to get down on yourself because of performances and because people around you put so much pressure on the athletes.”

Dr. Rachel Webb of the University of Arizona said the issue is far from new for athletes.

“Life has always been hard,” Webb said. “Mental health is a human condition and I think that’s something people are still trying to wrap their minds around.”

Webb said she doesn’t think there has been an uptick in mental health cases but, rather a rise in athletes asking for help when they need it.

And that is something she’s happy to see.

“Just because we don’t want something to be there doesn’t mean it isn’t,” she said.

While mental health progress looks different for everyone, Webb and Laskin said there is something fans can do to help. That’s to remember that athletes, every single one of them, are human.

“Accept instead of trying to break the person for something that’s really out of their control,” Laskin said. “There is stuff going on behind the scenes that nobody knows about so, to support decisions being made for personal reasons that’s like the biggest thing.”

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