Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price reignited the conversation about mental health in the sport on Thursday after announcing he would be stepping down from the team for undisclosed reasons.
A joint press release from the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) revealed that the 34-year-old goaltender will participate in the NHLPA Assistance Program, which helps players and their families struggling with mental health, addiction and other issues.
And while the specific details of his leave were not discussed, Price’s wife posted on Instagram on Thursday the importance of “putting your sanity first” while praising her husband for “showing up for the job. himself and his family ”.
Price isn’t the first, nor the last professional athlete to step away from sports to focus on his mental health. In fact, he is not the only Canadian.
Forward Jonathan Drouin recently joined the squad after taking a five-month hiatus due to struggles with anxiety and insomnia.
During the Olympics, star American gymnast Simone Biles inspired dozens of other Olympians to speak out about their struggles with mental health after dropping out of several high-profile events in Tokyo.
In some ways, these athletes are the source of a watershed in the sport – an industry where players are often described as tough and infallible, despite being constantly watched.
“Competitive sport, at all levels, is a stressful environment. You put yourself in danger – by playing, running, competing – usually with a lot of people watching you, ”Penny Werther, a sports psychologist who has worked with dozens of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, told CTVNews.ca. from Canada. Calgary Thursday.
“It’s so easy for the public in particular to criticize.
Werther, who works one-on-one with top athletes as a mental performance coach, says athletes like Price highlight how common it is for athletes to wrestle mentally – a courageous gesture, according to her, helps to change attitudes in sport.
“It takes a brave soul or two to step in and say that I am struggling psychologically and that I need help. And as we, a few other people, are doing it, then it becomes more normal to do it. And I don’t think it was [normal] for years, ”she said.
“Sport is like the last bastion of some of these things. Do we still have a lot of work to do? Absoutely. “
Although mental health issues are so common among athletes, Werther agrees that there has long been an attitude in many sports that may have prevented athletes from speaking out earlier.
And while the highly competitive nature of the sport puts even amateur athletes in a loop, social media and increased media attention to performance have added a new level of concern for professional athletes.
“The ability of people to be so critical that they never had to step on the line and sit in the stands and say, ‘Oh, you should have done it, you should have done it. “I mean, it’s not easy to be consistent night after night,” Werther said.
“I spend a lot of my time helping coaches figure out how to create an environment that is both stimulating and encouraging – and it is totally doable. But so many coaches out there are still old fashioned or just not as well trained as they could be on how to push athletes and challenge them and then create a supportive environment at the same time. time.
Werther hopes that by stepping forward, athletes like Price will make strides in better mental health support and training for athletes, in addition to inspiring better sportsmanship in younger generations.
It’s fantastic because it’s going to normalize that for everyone, so that they feel more comfortable asking for help, which is what we want them to do, ”she said.