New Mental Game series lays bare top athletes' struggles

Movember has formed a partnership with Canadian sportscaster Sportsnet to produce stories with champion ice hockey players that candidly address their mental health challenges. 

Some have been disappointed by their performances on the ice rink, or grappled with not making  a team, or trained so hard they lost all impetus. Others encountered life-changing moments that triggered a spiral into darkness and despair.

Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte said he lost his drive as a hockey player after he was traded, and then a malaise hit every corner of his life. Simple things lifted him like taking a walk in nature and reading a few chapters … or pages … of a book each day.

 “For those of you in a tough spot, it gets better,”  he says in the first episode of The Mental Game series, which is titled Adversity.

Each story is combined with observations and commentary from noted health professionals and sports psychologists.

Dr David Kuhl, a professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, says it is common for men to habor a belief that, in order to be strong they shouldn’t be experiencing mental illness or feel sad.

“And they keep it to themselves,” he says.

“When you feel rejected, it will have an impact on you. It can lead into a deep depression.”

The beautifully crafted 10-minute segments highlight the strategies used by these sporting heroes to confront their depression and debilitating anxiety.

St Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly found his way back through music.

“Music helped me get inside myself to see what’s going on.”

These strategies are distilled into smaller vignettes, Start your mental fitness routine.

Reading, self-expression through music, setting small goals and channelling your energy into something positive are offered as self-care techniques, which are then reinforced by the experts, for example:

Tip#2

“When you start a new habit, make it doable and manageable. Start with something small,” says Dr Thomas Ungar, associate professor of psychiatry and the University of Toronto.

“Some incremental change over time is what’s gonna do it for you,” adding that a 30-second meditation routine might be more practical and achievable than an hour.

“When that becomes a normal part of your routine, maybe you’ll go 60 seconds. It doesn’t have to be huge.”

The series launched on February 22 and is running for five weeks across Sportsnet channels in Canada.

“Through this campaign, we want to re-frame self-care as mental fitness and inspire men to adopt simple self-care habits such as reading, walking in nature or doing yoga to help maintain their mental health during such testing times,” says Movember Foundation Global Director, Mental health and Suicide Prevention Brendan Maher.

“Research indicates activities like these can have a significant impact on men's mental health, but all too often, they are considered feminine, and traditional masculine norms hold men back from taking action for their own wellbeing.

The Mental Game is an intimate look at the set-backs and mental challenges experienced by top athletes, and how they have worked on their mental fitness and resilience to overcome them.”

View The Mental Game

https://www.sportsnet.ca/more/video/tip-5-expect-fail/

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