Of course, May was supposed to be the month of the PGA Championship. COVID-19 can take away our golf, but it can’t take away our spirit! May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. Now before you roll your eyes and think, “Oh boy, another how-to-stay-sane-during-COVID-19 article,” let me assure you this one is worth reading.
As a sport psychologist, I care about your golf game, but I also care about you — the golfer. Mental health challenges don’t discriminate. Whether you’re a regular Joe who gets out on the links to relax on occasion or one of the most well-paid golfers in the history of golf, you’ll face a challenge beyond your physical body.
So in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s normalize mental health experiences by looking at some of the ways pro golfers have opened up about their own mental health. What we know is that the more we talk about it, the less “weird” it is to talk about it. And reading other peoples’ stories can help us share our own and get the support we need.
Don’t panic. Or do. It’s OK.
Both Bubba Watson and Charlie Beljan have been open about their struggles with panic attacks. Bubba talks about his multiple hospital visits, and Charlie had a panic attack so publicly that paramedics followed him around the course of the Tournament of Champions. Both have been frank about pursuing medication to treat their symptoms.
Panic attacks most frequently feel like you’d imagine a heart attack would feel like, which is why people often present at the ER during their first panic attacks. Approximately 5 percent of adults will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives.
Depression is real and can be ongoing
Thomas Bjorn has spoken publicly about his battle with depression which, for him, is an ongoing battle. He has described his experience as feeling like it was impossible to get out of bed, stuck in negative thought patterns, and hating everything. He discusses how he has to continue to remember the things that were helpful for him each time he starts to notice symptoms to help him get ahead of his feelings more quickly.
About 7 percent of adults will struggle with depression in any given year.
Substance abuse doesn’t make it go away for good
Just last year, Chris Kirk bravely announced that he needed to take a leave of absence to address alcohol abuse and depression. Substance use, which can be thought of as excessive use of substances despite the negative impact on one’s life, often goes hand in hand with things like depression and anxiety because it becomes a way to numb the discomfort. Substances become an effective short-term solution with serious negative long-term effects.
About 1 in 12 American adults struggle with a substance abuse disorder annually.
Let’s find a silver lining to our isolation
By no means is this an exhaustive list of those who struggle or who have openly discussed mental health. Rather, I want you to know you aren’t alone and it’s all treatable. Whether you or someone you love struggles with mental health difficulties, let’s take the month of May to celebrate the ways in which this COVID-19 crisis can lead us to be more in tune with ourselves, more intentional about caring for ourselves, and more open with those we love.
For many of us, golf is an outlet that helps improve our mental health and wellbeing. And without it, you may be struggling right now. Reach out to someone you care about and share your story. It can be a powerful thing.
If you are experiencing a crisis, don’t be afraid to reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a tremendous resource and can be reached at 1.800.273.8255 or by texting HOME to 741741. Read more from Dr. Chelsi Day in Psych Factor.
Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.
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