Yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk day, whereby for every text, call, tweet, Instagram and Facebook post, Bell contributed 5 cents to mental health initiatives. One in five Canadians suffer from mental illness; however, more than two-thirds of these individuals never seek help because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Bell’s goal was to educate people about mental illness in order to help change the negative stereotypes surrounding it, and hopefully encourage people to seek help.

Physiotherapists may feel more like psychologists as patients tend to develop a positive relationship with their therapist and feel that they can be honest and open about struggles outside of their physical injury. Although it is out of the scope of physiotherapy to treat mental illness, physiotherapists play a vital role in educating patients about different avenues they can explore to seek help, as well as recognizing when someone is a danger to themselves or others around them.

Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic treats a large number of athletes, and one would think that this population is fairly immune to mental illness. Exercise and physical activity have long been shown to help with mood disorders, depression and anxiety. Athletes are generally very driven, goal-oriented individuals, in exceptional shape physically. So it’s understandable that most people assume they are also mentally strong and healthy. However, athletes are still vulnerable to mental illness for many of the same reasons as the general population. Some common risk factors for mental health disorders in athletes include:

Overtraining/Burnout

 Athletes devout a large amount of their time and energy to their sport. With this comes the pressure to perform and excel, which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. The heavy training schedule of many sports, combined with school, and in some cases work, can lead to fatigue and burnout in a large number of student athletes. Unfortunately, athletes rarely seek help for their psychological problems, for fear that they will be seen as weak and possibly lose their spot on a team. Athletes who do seek help will often be diagnosed with “overtraining.” The physiological, immunological, hormonal, and metabolic changes of over-training are very similar to those associated with depression. As such, some researchers have debated whether athletes with depression are actually being misdiagnosed with overtraining.

Eating Disorders

Many athletes feel the pressure to ma