MENTAL HEALTH AND TOKYO OLYMPICS
Recently, US gymnast Simona Biles withdrawn from Tokyo Olympics on account of Mental Health. Ben Stokes, England Cricketer taken a break and withdrawn from the home test series to prioritize his Mental Health and to rest his left index finger, Japanese Sports Persons facing abuse and hatred: Mai Murakami, a gymnast facing Cyberbullying from her people as some are against for her participation in Olympics. Japanese Athletes were facing a lot more pressure as being a host country's responsibility is more on them. Naomi Osaka, a Japanese tennis player talks about mental health and the stigma attached to it. PV Sindhu, an Indian Badminton Player (who won bronze in Tokyo Olympics) says Mental Health is very important and meditation helps her to stay calm during the pressure of expectation and responsibility, Katie Ledecky also talks openly about Mental Health in Tokyo Olympics 2020. Celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone supports Simona Biles's decision on withdrawing from the Olympics and giving priority to mental health. Kumar Sangakkara supported Ben Stroke on Mental Health Break.
Divya Jain, A Sports Psychologist in India explains the importance of mental health in sports, especially shooting and Archery. They have to go through cardiovascular training where they need to trigger between beats of their heart. There is a need for mental health trainers in sports to help athletes deal with pressures in a critical situation, enhance motivation level, boost self-confidence and self-efficacy, managing emotions and anxiety levels, helps them bounce back from setbacks, deal with external stressors, developing a positive attitude toward sports, team building, Communication, Group Dynamics, acceptance of thoughts and feelings, deal with success and failures, etc. This time the situation experienced by the Athletes is quite different we all were targets of Pandemic and Lockdown. There’s no access to gyms, Coaches, and National Training camps. Players were not in touch with family and friends. Even many are on fields when their family person suffers from health difficulties. A lot of pressure is also being experienced on the 1-year postponement of the Tokyo games because of a pandemic. Even in normal circumstances, sportspeople experience high pressure especially during penalty shootouts and super overs, millions of eyes on players, great responsibility as the players are representing their respective Countries, Anxiety, Fear of Failure, Stress, etc. International Olympic Committee (IOC) opens up a helpline number for athletes with any mental health problems. This helpline works in 70 languages operating 24/7 up to three months after the Tokyo Olympics. The helpline offers Clinical support, counseling, guidance, reporting on account of any harassment or abuse, practical support. This step has been taken after Simona Biles announces withdrawal from the Olympics.
In India, there’s a shortage of sports psychologists. Around 800% shortage of mental health professionals and a similar situation is encountered when it comes to sports psychologists. But now the awareness about the need for mental trainers is seen among the athletes. A holistic approach to sports training is required which includes Physical Training, Specific Sport related training, and Mental Training. There are some psychological skill training techniques that help athletes to prepare mentally like Mental Imagery, Breathing techniques, refocus, routine before the performance, body language(to look Confident which can scare the opponent), mindfulness, self-talk, goal setting, Multisensory experiences, etc. We need to realize that Mental Health is equally important as Physical Health for Athletes. At an individual level, we need to support athletes no matter whether they win or lose. Unconditioned support should be provided to athletes no matter what will be the outcomes. It has been noticed that if any sport has more supporters it will eventually lead to more growth of a respective sports person. Being an athlete is a roller coaster ride success and failures are a part of the journey. It takes a lot of courage to talk about mental health and how it affects wellbeing and field performance. There’s a stigma attached to mental health which can only be overcome when we talk about it and let everyone speak on their vulnerabilities.
As said by United Nations ‘IT’S OKAY, NOT TO BE OKAY’.