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Understanding Mental Health

Dr. Cauthen & Dr. Bitney

3 min read

Aug 25, 2021



Sports and mental health are two things that are extremely intertwined. This is something that is becoming more and more understood as well-known athletes, including Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, speak about their experience juggling the high pressure of competing while trying to maintain mental wellness. However, awareness about mental health is not just important for athletes competing on national or international stages. It is something that affects each and every athlete, at all levels. Before we can truly explore the impact that pursuing athletics can have on an individual, I realize that it is vital to understand what exactly one means when discussing the larger concept of “mental health.”

The term “mental health” is something that is often discussed in the media these days, with many trying to become more aware of how aspects of everyday life affect one’s emotional and mental wellness – typically described by the term mental health. But what is mental health? What does that big umbrella term encompass? The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” The Center for Disease Control defines mental health as including “emotional, psychological, and social well-being.”

One thing that is extremely important to note in all of this is that mental health is not the same as mental illness. Mental illness refers to a wide range of psychological disorders that influence one’s mental or emotional wellbeing. Mental illnesses are also often referred to as mental health disorders which can cause confusion when speaking about mental health in general. People will typically consider depression, anxiety, high levels of stress, or other negative feelings only when thinking or discussing mental health. But just as with physical health, mental health can also be positive, which is extremely important to consider. Challenging the preconceived notion that mental health must be negative would allow people to openly discuss their emotional wellbeing and further reduce stigmas surrounding negative mental health.

With all this discussion of mental health, you may find yourself wondering “Why should I care about all of this?” At TOPPS, we believe that fostering mental health is one of the most beneficial things a person can do for themselves. In a paper published by the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health, it was stated that positive mental health promoted: (Friedli et. al, 2007)

· Improved physical health

· Higher educational attainment

· Better quality of life

· Increased civic engagement

· Better social relationships – both amongst peers and between adults and children

Whatever a person’s mental health status, developing an awareness and understanding about what constitutes good mental health is still extremely beneficial. Each day we are exposed to stimuli that affect our emotions. Becoming awareness of this can help with understanding our reactions and behaviors.

In the next few blog posts, we will be diving deeper into mental health diagnoses and symptomology, including exploring how these can deeply affect athletes both in their sport and in their daily lives. If any of the above material struck a chord with you and you are interested in learning more or seeking help, please get in touch with us. Here at TOPPS, we believe in building a holistic approach, focusing on building a balanced mind and balanced body. To learn more about our services, contact us by email at We can help you explore your best fit with one of our psychologists. You can explore their bios here.


Friedli, Lynne & Parsonage, Michael. (2007). Mental health promotion: building an economic case.

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