Mental health recovery programs for athletes

How your athletic résumé can be your gateway to psychological reformation
In essence, CBT helps people identify, question, and change distorted thoughts and beliefs they might have about themselves and the world. MAX XI/THE VARSITY
In essence, CBT helps people identify, question, and change distorted thoughts and beliefs they might have about themselves and the world. MAX XI/THE VARSITY

Staring at a blank wall, your mind starts to use it as a movie screen. You see flashbacks of the game-ending goal or a play that you read wrong. The paper that is due next week, sporting only your typed-out name, is the last thing on your mind. As those walls start to feel as though they are closing in on you, you search for a breath of fresh air or even a door that leads to an escape. “Where are these opportunities for help?” you ask. “As a varsity athlete, how can I ever be seen with a concerned look on my face?”

Just like when you take a step forward to find the puck buried under the goalie or meet the soccer ball at the centre of the field, there is a whole team that can offer you support on campus as an athlete and beyond that can cater to your discipline.

A March 2018 report by the Toronto Mental Health and Addictions Access Point in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Wellesley Institute found that over 13,000 people in Toronto were on a waitlist for mental health services and addictions supportive housing. This shows how many people out there are ready to talk and receive help. As students, we have access to University of Toronto benefits such as workshops and on-site physicians at the Health & Wellness Centre that can lead us in the right direction. We should consider ourselves lucky and ensure that we make use of these resources whenever we can to better our health.

Sometimes, just  switching to a new environment can be beneficial for mental relief, especially as athletes who spend a lot of time at faculty gyms and with the same people.

The Canadian Centre For Mental Health And Sport (CCMHS), based in Ottawa, offers a self-referral program and is now accepting new patients. From personal experience, most clinics prefer having applications submitted by physicians, so consider this a rare opportunity. The centre  provides doctors specifically qualified to treat athletes 16 years old and over who compete at the provincial level or higher and experience mental health challenges. Ambassadors for the CCMHS include professional hockey player Ben Meisner. To say you would be in good hands is an understatement.

As athletes, it’s important to continue to prioritize your mental health beyond the tight circle of physicians you meet during recovery, even through something as simple as having a positive conversation with a close friend or someone going through the same situation as you are.

Stella’s Place is located in downtown Toronto, and is a mental health organization for young adults between the ages of 16 and 29 that offers a variety of creative mental health services and spaces. For instance, Stella’s Studio is an “arts-based community” where peers can “create and share art.” There is also a café where you can grab coffee, finish up work in a safe and welcoming environment, and even meet up with those you met during your classes to hang out. 

The road to recovery doesn’t just stop there. You can also download BeanBagChat, an app operated by Stella’s Place, through which you can receive individual support from staff.

Your story will one day change someone else’s life. Going through a rough patch simply means you were made to be a storyteller and grow into a more powerful, influential individual than you could have ever imagined. Books have sequels, and your new chapter could start today.

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