Mental Health And Sports

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Throwing light on the challenges and anxieties sports persons go through.

The mental health awareness month in May 2018 saw some large sports personalities open up about their mental health struggles over the course of their career. Sports giants like Olympic Gold-medallist swimmer- Micheal Phelps, NBA legend- Jerry West, NFL player- Brandon Marshall have shared their stories and have thus started the slow and steady process of destigmatizing mental illness in sports.

Behind the success and stardom of successful players is a brutal wave of stressors including competition, criticism, rivalry, fear of injury, expectations and fear of failure. Retirement is also a cause of mental health issues among players. The news of Australian rugby player Wallaby Dan Vickerman shows that the period of transition from playing to retirement and the phase of retirement itself can be extremely distressing for the players who have most often than not had a successful, highly achieving career. This competitive and stressful environment affects their performance which in turn affects their mental health. It’s a vicious cycle that most players face but rarely talk about. Apart from the hesitance of talking about mental health, the battle fighting for destigmatising mental illness in sports is all the more challenging in India due to the lack of a sporting culture, fewer facilities for sports, low budget allocations and lack of recognition for various sports in the country.

One of the key factors that keep players from seeking help is the stigma and the fear of losing playtime. Fear and anticipation of the media and social response also affects their help-seeking behaviour. The way the media portrays the struggles could have profound effects on the career and can further demotivate one to seek help or speak out about their issues. The most prominent example is that of golf star- Tiger Woods who did not speak about his sex addiction since his marriage, and ultimately had his public image and career affected. These negative consequences of appearing weak seem to outweigh the benefits of seeking help. According to sports psychologist Karen Nimmo, physical injuries have a certainty, and the player is well cared for but the uncertainty that comes with mental injuries leaves a player with less attention and care than they deserve. In a field where strength is a primary predictor of success, it is difficult to imagine a player struggling with mental health issues. According to the All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, it is the perception of mental illness as a weakness that often leads to players pushing their concerns under the carpet. The main aim is to get the players to understand that talking about their vulnerabilities is a matter of strength rather than weakness.

Source: Sidney Rae on Unsplash

On one hand, the circumstances of competitive sports can add to the stressors in a player’s life and on the other hand, sports as an activity can help as a stress buster for many. Apart from the physical benefits of sports, an important reason why schools offer sports and physical training is that it helps build various aspects of one’s personality such as teamwork, leadership, discipline, self-improvement, development of self-esteem to begin with. A study has shown that rigorous physical activity is associated with reduction in depressive symptoms, anxiety and body image issues in adolescents. Active participation in sports and physical activities leads to the release of endorphins, thus giving one a sense of ‘high’ or ‘euphoria’. Sports can thus also work as a mood regulator. Several studies explain the positive effects of sports on various aspects of life and yet, those most involved in sports don’t seem to benefit the most out of it. This implies that there is something amiss in the field and practice of sports than the activity itself. The question is, what can we do to make things better in this regard?

Here are some suggestions about how the field of competitive sports can be improved so as to help one in achieving one’s full potential, holistically:

  • Provisions need to made to include mental healthcare for the players along with physical healthcare.
  • Sensitivity on part of the media and the public following the players can encourage players to freely seek help.
  • Provisions in team management for a therapist or sports psychologist will be an added advantage.
  • Post-match group or individual sessions to assess the mental health of the players is advisable as sharing helps alleviate stress.
  • Introducing mental health training right from the beginning as a preventive measure would go a long way in ensuring the mental well-being of sportspeople.

Feature Image Credit: Ben-o-Sullivan on Unsplash

 

Vini Doshi is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

 

References:

Caldwell, Olivia. “Sport, Fame, Money and Pressure a Cocktail for Mental Illness.” Stuff, 20 May 2018, www.stuff.co.nz/sport/other-sports/103564949/sport-fame-money-and-pressure-a-cocktail-for-mental-illness.

Dockett, Lauren. “Athletes Get Real About Mental Health.” Psychotherapy Networker, 10 May 2018, www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1437/athletes-get-real-about-mental-health.

“Mental Health in Sport.” Mental Notes Consulting, 16 Apr. 2014, mentalnotesconsulting.com.au/mental-health-in-sport/.

Gleeson, Scott, and Erik Brady. “When Athletes Share Their Battles with Mental Illness.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 30 Aug. 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2017/08/30/michael-phelps-brandon-marshall-mental-health-battles-royce-white-jerry-west/596857001/.

Birla, Neerja. “Want to Tackle Mental Health Issues? Sports Can Be Your ‘Daily Dose of Rejuvenation’.” The Economic Times, Economic Times, 16 Feb. 2018, economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/between-the-lines/want-to-tackle-mental-health-issues-sports-can-be-your-daily-dose-of-rejuvenation/articleshow/62944087.cms.

Chandran, Nyshka. “Why Is India so Bad at Sport?” CNBC, CNBC, 20 Aug. 2016, www.cnbc.com/2016/08/19/lack-of-sporting-culture-institutional-support-and-inequality-blamed-for-indias-poor-olympic-record.html.

Mellalieu, Stephen D., et al. “Competition Stress in Sport Performers: Stressors Experienced in the Competition Environment.” Taylor & Francis, 20 May 2009, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02640410902889834?src=recsys&journalCode=rjsp20.

Goldfield, G S, et al. “Physical Activity and Psychological Adjustment in Adolescents.”Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21415442.

Woodhouse, John. “Are Indian Cricketers Keeping Their Mental Health Issues Secret?”Sportskeeda.com – Get Latest Sports News & Updates, Sportskeeda, 12 July 2017, www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/are-indian-cricketers-keeping-their-mental-health-issues-secret-2.

Peters , Daniel. “Wallaby Great Dan Vickerman, 37, Confided in Friends He Struggled with Retirement after ’10 Years at the Top of the Game’ – before He Was Found Dead at His Sydney Home.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 22 Feb. 2017, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4240984/Former-Wallaby-Dan-Vickerman-struggled-retirement.html.

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Pre and Post Menstrual Syndrome

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All you need to know about it

There’s a subject that has been taboo for a long period of time, and unfortunately, continues to be so — Menstrual health and hygiene. This very taboo has prevented women and others from discussing the important concerns of menstruation, and the effect it has on their health.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is the name given to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that occur two weeks before a female’s menstruation cycle. It’s also known as Premenstrual Tension (PMT) and was described in 1931 as a “state of unbearable tension”. Some women experience PMS from the time they begin having their menstrual cycles, but for most, PMS begins in the pre-menopausal years — around the mid-thirties — and becomes increasingly severe as the years go on, till the women achieve menopause.

Post Menstrual Syndrome is not as well-known as Pre Menstrual Syndrome. Post Menstrual syndrome is defined as physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms that take place 1–2 weeks after the period has ended. The only difference between pre and post menstrual syndrome is that post menstrual syndrome occurs after the menstruation cycle has ended for the month.

Symptoms of Pre and Post Menstrual Syndrome can be categorised into physical and emotional changes. Physical symptoms include joint pain, weight gain, food cravings, breast tenderness, headaches, fatigue, cramping, bloating, cramping, acne flare-ups, bleeding, constipation, diarrhoea, headache, migraine, nausea, lower back pain, discharge, etc. Emotional changes or emotional symptoms include tearfulness, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, anger, mental fatigue, poor concentration, change in libido, cravings, insomnia, etc.

1 in every 20 women have symptoms that are severe enough to stop them from living their normal lives. This is often the result of a more intense type of PMS known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Current estimates are that severe Premenstrual Syndrome occurs in 2.5 to 5 % of women, and mild PMS occurs in 33 % of women. Indian studies that discuss the prevalence of PMS are few. However, one study conducted by Raval et al. (2016), in Gujarat, says that the prevalence of PMS was 18.4%. Moderate to severe PMS was 14.7% and PMDD was 3.7%.

There are several myths about Pre and Post Menstrual Syndrome which are held by conservative society, and that are prevalent even today, thereby affecting different women in various realms of their lives. Some of them are –

  • “All women suffer from Premenstrual syndrome” — According to the Journal of Women’s Health, 20% of women need medical aid due to PMS, but it is not a universal problem for all women.
  • “It is the same as the Menstruation Cycle” — Despite the words, Pre and Post in it, some people tend to believe that it is the same thing as menstruation.
  • “It just has one form” — As mentioned above, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS.
  • “Women need to get accustomed to it since there is no cure to it” — It can be treated with various medical treatment and with lifestyle changes.
  • “All pain that women have before their menstrual cycle is due to PMS” — For a condition to be considered as PMS related, women should have symptoms present for at least three consecutive menstrual cycles.
  • “Women suffering from PMS just have mood swings ‘cause of the hormones” — PMS is a lot more than fluctuations in hormones. They are just one of the causes of the different symptoms of PMS.

There are many causes and factors that contribute to the conditions of Pre and Post Menstrual Syndrome. Some of them include:

  • Different symptoms are caused due to hormonal changesHowever, these symptoms disappear with menopause or pregnancy.
  • Fluctuations in serotonin, which is an important neurotransmitter, could trigger various symptoms of premenstrual syndrome since this neurotransmitter plays an important role in mood changes.
  • Many women who suffer from Premenstrual Syndrome have undiagnosed depression
  • Going through a stressful life event can also trigger symptoms of Pre and Post Menstrual Syndrome.
  • According to Nicole Jardin, who is a certified women’s health and nutrition coach, insulin dysregulation or resistance is one of the major symptoms and causes of imbalances.

Some of the most opted for and advised treatments and cures for Pre and Post Menstrual Syndrome:

  • Regular exercising
  • Yoga
  • Massages during and after one’s menstrual cycle
  • Low caffeine intake
  • 7 hours of sleep
  • Ample intake of calcium, minerals and vitamins
  • A healthy diet which includes ingestion of different fruits and vegetables
  • Intake of omega six fatty acids and
  • Yoghurt
  • Sufficient intake of water
  • Herbal remedies
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Acupuncture therapy
  • Medical treatment from a certified clinician

Feature Image Credit: Janos Richter on Unsplash

 

Riddhi Panchal is a Research Associate at One Future Collective.

 

References:

Natale, Brittany. “Irritability, Brain Fog, and Cramping After Your Period? It May Be Postmenstrual Syndrome.” POPSUGAR Tech, 25 May 2018.

What Is Post Menstrual Syndrome? How Do You Treat It?” The Period Vitamin, 2 June 2016, theperiodvitamin.com/post-menstrual-syndrome.html.

Raval, CM, et al. “Prevalence of Premenstrual Syndrome and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder among College Students of Bhavnagar, Gujarat.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 10 June 2016,

Lodha, Pragya, and Riddhi Panchal. “Let’s Talk About PMS And Some More Pre-Menstrual Stuff.” Feminism in India, 3 Apr. 2018.

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The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression

Ed-Innovate I Dismantling the Bullying Culture

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Educational Innovations Series #1

(This article is the first in an Educational Innovation series by Pukhraj Ranjan, which explores global innovations that are helping solve critical issues in K12 education with the hope to spread it to the Indian education landscape and beyond.)


 

As a girl child growing up in the capital of India and attending an average, middle-income private school, I was bullied for being too tall, too dark, too hairy (body hair) and for having very thick eyebrows.

In an article written in 2017, it was mentioned that 42% of Indian kids were being bullied in school.

It did NOT surprise me.

Bullying can take physical, social or psychological manifestations.

Also, Indian children aren’t the only ones who face the culture of bullying and negative peer pressure.

Globally, 246 million children and young people experience school violence every year (Plan International, 2017).

 

A bully is generally defined as someone who uses their superior strength or manipulating skills to force someone to do something. Common synonyms to the verb bully include words like oppress, torment, coerce, nag, harass, intimidate, etc.

The Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying (UNESCO, 2017) further explains that bullying more often than not, is majorly driven because of a student’s physical appearance, gender, social status, disability, ethnicity, linguistic or cultural preferences and sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Furthermore, such harassment and abuse can manifest itself in Physical (physical violence, corporal punishment), Psychological (verbal and emotional abuse, social violence) and Sexual coercion and discrimination with some extreme cases of sexual abuse and rape. A new manifestation that is taking the millennial world by storm is Cyberbullying, where we see that 42% of kids have been bullied while online and 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once. (i-SAFE Foundation)

Why does Bullying happen?

It is quite hard to explain the root cause of the problem as it depends on the individual’s situation, both the bully and the bullied, as well as the context or environment. Experts have diverse opinions where some say it illustrates the power struggle amongst peers while some are of the opinion that it is a reliever for people who have issues with low self-esteem, anger management problems, revenge or jealousy. Often, it is also a way to seek attention and/or maintain popularity. Students like Trisha Prabhu (watch the TEDxTeen Video below) put it as a deficiency amongst adolescents to understand the consequences of one’s actions.

So, what is needed to fix the problem?

Educators and policymakers in India and globally are planning for a range of things from value education classes and practical social-emotional skills to harsher consequences for the bullies and counselling services for the bullied. Parents want their children supported. Student themselves are asking for systems and structures to prevent bullying, often creating them themselves like the Rethink App, as well as spaces to share and feel heard.

In the field of dismantling the bullying culture, it is not that innovative solutions and practices don’t exist. It is simply that we may not be aware of those who are changing the narrative.

 

I am always acknowledging and sharing K12 education innovations from around the world through my work at HundrED, and now through these series of articles, that seem to work. I intend to share these global innovations that I feel are innovative, have the potential to spread, scale and impact the Indian education landscape and beyond.

1. MeeTwo (UK)

A unique early intervention solution to adolescent anxiety from the United Kingdom. The MeeTwo app allows young people to post their problems, share solutions, access educational resources and receive expert help anonymously or otherwise. The app is mostly used in the UK but also in US, India and New Zealand with hopes to reach out to more children and communities.

2. Roots of Empathy (Canada)

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program from Canada for primary school children that decreases aggression and bullying, and increases prosocial behaviours such as caring, sharing and inclusion. At the last count, it has scaled to 11 countries and lives by its motto: Changing the world, child by child.

3. The Child-Oriented Model for Wellbeing (Finland)

This Finnish child-oriented model for well-being improves students’ behavior and communication education with support at three varied stages. Students are given support that focuses on well-being and finding joy in learning.

4. PROJECT ROCKIT Online (Australia)

PROJECT ROCKIT Online is built BY young people FOR young people and encourages students to self-reflect on previous…hundred.org

PROJECT ROCKIT Online is built BY young people FOR young people and encourages students to self-reflect on previous experiences while simultaneously equipping them with credible and risk-free ways to stand up to hate in the future. The program consists of three interactive online workshops that focus on the issues of bullying, online hate and social leadership. The online program was externally-evaluated by the University of New South Wales and at the end of the study, 96% (initial count: 46%) of young people felt confident enough to stand up against cyberbullying.

5 Everyday Kindness Project (Vietnam)

Students will perform kind works everywhere, such as at home, at school, in public, etc. These actions need to be…hundred.org

A 5-week long classroom or school-based project where students will perform kind works everywhere, such as at home, at school, in public, etc. These actions will be recorded in photos, videos, kind stories, etc. and shared with parents weekly. This innovation has already been shared with 11,000 students in Vietnam!

6 ChalkPeace (India)

ChalkPeace, based out of Chennai (India), is a peace education program incorporating games, thinking and art to effect a shift in mindsets. Their Peace Education Resources and Workshops revolves around the core idea of peace being a process that begins from within: as empathy, respect for diversity or cultivating the value of mutual trust and tolerance.

These are only some of the innovations around the world that are doing some incredible work to eliminate the culture of Bullying in their local as well as global contexts. Please note that only MeeTwo and Roots of Empathy have the official endorsement of HundrED as they have been interviewed, researched and recognised in the Global 2018 collection. Others are ideas and innovations shared openly on our website and are of my personal liking.


Pukhraj Ranjan is an Indian educator based out of Helsinki, Finland. She is a Teach for India 2010 cohort and staff alumni. An Educational Leadership graduate from the University of Jyväskylä, she is currently working with a not-for-profit educational organisation, HundrED.org as their Global Community Manager. She believes in education as a means of understanding self and reaching one’s true potential, in edu-connections and collective power. She is also a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

Feature Image Credit: John Michael Lindsey on Unsplash

Additional Resources

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The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression