Mental health is just as important as physical prowess

Sporting injuries and illnesses can be devastating for elite athletes, but there’s an equally serious problem affecting Australian sport: mental illness.

Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, eating disorders and more affect many Australians, and the rates of impact can be even higher among sportspeople.

Some of Australia’s elite athletes have been out in Broken Hill recently sharing in the great work of Lifeline. Lifeline is committed to helping Australians who suffer with mental health disorders, and we’ve been glad to partner with them as chaplains address mental health issues.

Lifeline have also recorded some podcasts to highlight the stories of Australians struggling with mental health issues. One podcast tells the story of Pete Wilson…

Pete had always been involved in high-level sport, but found his true passion in extreme marathon running. He participated in races around the world, running hundreds of kilometres and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy causes.

But after one particularly taxing race in freezing conditions in Alaska, Pete realised that his heart wasn’t beating normally. He was rushed home to hospital in Sydney and underwent treatment to regulate his heartbeat.

Over the next few months, Pete attempted to rehabilitate his heart, but eventually realised that surgery was necessary.

For someone who had been so active and had dedicated so much of their life to sport, having to slow down took a big toll on him. At the same time, both Pete’s parents died within a short period, and he was also struggling with finances, his marriage and his job.

Sadly, Pete began to plan to take his own life. Luckily, his work friend Jess noticed the warning signs and turned on the location tracker on Pete’s phone.

Pete went to a lighthouse where he planned to end his life, but Jess managed to track his phone and stopped Pete just in time.

Thankfully, Pete’s friends rallied around him and got him the help that he needed to cope with the loss of elite athleticism along with the other pressures in his life – but not all sportspeople have the same support.

That’s why sports chaplaincy in clubs and organisations is so important, to help support athletes and their communities through all stages of life. Thank you for providing support to people like Pete – and thank you to Lifeline for serving Australia in this way!

You can listen to the podcast telling more of Pete’s story here

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