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Pressure can take a toll on athletes, Medical College of Georgia expert says

Simone Biles, of the United States, waits to perform on the vault during the artistic...
Simone Biles, of the United States, waits to perform on the vault during the artistic gymnastics women's final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo. The American gymnastics superstar has withdrawn the all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)(Gregory Bull | AP)
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 7:52 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - With all the success that could come with winning in the Olympics, there also comes a lot of pressure.

We’ve seen athletes’ mental health take the fore front this year after Sha’Carri Richardson admitted to dealing with mental health after the death of her biological mother and then again when Simone Biles took a step back to focus on herself.

Dr. Christopher Drescher, a child and adolescent psychologist from the Medical College of Georgia, explained that while sports participation is overall a positive activity, he has seen situations were sports affected a young person’s mental health.

Things like pressure from adults and peers – pressure to be perfect – or forcing a child to play a sport they are not interested in can take a toll, especially if the child already has depression or anxiety.

And the mental stress can be more challenging if the person gets a physical injury that prevents them from playing that sport.

Drescher says suicide is the third-leading cause of death in adolescents. He says one step to helping to address mental health issues in athletes and the general public is to normalize the process to diagnose depression.

“So that is something we need to be screening for in regular doctor’s appointments, but it’s also something that can screened for sports physicals,” Drescher said. “Typically, sports required that athletes have a physical before they participate, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t add a screening for depression and also to normalize screenings for depression.”

Drescher said those screenings are really simple. You don’t have to go to an actual mental health specialist. You can just tell your normal doctor how you’ve been feeling and they will ask you a few questions, then come up with a diagnosis.

The signs of depression are similar for everyone: anxiety or quietness, a change in normal behavior or actions, different eating habits and even substance abuse.

Drescher stresses that parents should keep talking with their children about the importance of mental health.

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