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World Health Day: Indian sportspersons who spoke out on mental health

On World Health Day, one cannot forget mental health is also a crucial element of health, which cannot be ignored now. Let us take a look at some Indian athletes who have made the effort to speak up and encouraged others.

World Health Day: Indian sportspersons who spoke out on mental health

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 9 April 2021 10:55 AM GMT

The day, April 7, of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day. The theme for World Health Day 2021 is "Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone". World Health Day 2021 comes at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is looming across the world. It has undercut recent health gains, pushed more people into poverty and food insecurity, and amplified gender, social and health inequities.

On World Health Day, one cannot forget mental health is also a crucial element of health, which cannot be ignored now. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. The issues related to mental health are often considered taboos in India. Many celebrities and icons have spoken up about it. Let us take a look at some Indian athletes who have made the effort to speak up and encouraged others.

Virat Kohli

Indian cricket team captain, who is one of the finest batsmen of the current times, has gone through a phase where he struggled with mental health issues. Though he has reserved the top slot in the list of ICC ODI's best batsman, failure in England in 2014 pushed Kohli into a dark role, and he didn't know what to do further. The batsman even revealed that it was the phase where he thought 'it's the end of the world'. He said, he didn't know what to do, what to say, and even how to communicate with anybody. Kohli now believes it's wise to have rest days and keep your mind at peace.

PV Sindhu

The reigning world champion badminton player PV Sindhu is at the top of her game. But things weren't always easy for the Olympics silver medallist as people questioned her mental strength after losing in the final of the 2016 Rio Olympics. India's ace shuttler also went through a tough period before qualifying for the Rio Olympics due to a stress fracture in 2015. PV Sindhu had revealed that she was almost depressed, as she was out of action for six months just before the Olympics qualification."When I had a stress fracture in 2015, I had pain but didn't tell anyone. I was bearing that pain and then told my dad that there was pain and we went. The 2016 Olympics qualification was there and I was almost depressed. I played almost 22 tournaments after the injury and got selected for Rio. It was not a small injury. Even though I was injured I was doing my upper body exercise. I believed that I can do it and I have done it," she had said in an online interview.

Gourmangi Singh

Gouramangi Singh, who served the Indian football team for over 15 years, had shared how exactly the shift in perception about mental health has impacted Indian football in interaction with AIFF. "It's very good that players and coaches are open about the mental challenges that they face nowadays," Gouramangi said. "We now have professionals who are there to help with these things, and they can be crucial to help players grow in their footballing careers," he added. The 34-year-old Gourmangi, who is currently the assistant coach of I-League aspirants Bengaluru United, also noted that the situation was very different at the time he was playing as a professional player even a few years back.

Cheteswar Pujara

India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara lauded Australia's Glenn Maxwell for admitting to suffering from mental health issues and taking a break from the sport due to the problem and urged other cricketers to do the same if they are suffering from it at any point in their careers.

Talking about the issue, Pujara said to India Today that Indian players refrain from talking about the issue in the open due to the pressure of performance but this is something that needs to be addressed and attended to by every player. He had said, "It is very important to address it but in India unfortunately I haven't heard many cricketers say that because there is lot of pressure on all the players to perform, just at the international level but even at the domestic level.

If someone is going through a bad time I don't think any cricketer will come out and talk about such issues in India."

Abhinav Bindra

Indian Olympic gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra had spoken earlier of his struggles to manage his mind. The former shooter said at an event, "I abused my passion. I did not maintain a balance. By abuse, I mean the single-minded focus on one thing. It is not the way to go about. It definitely gives you success, but in the end, a gold medal is not everything in life. If you find the right balance, you will see that you will be able to be at your best. I was a very good athlete and was always performing my best in training, but I always struggled in competition, I never liked competition. I put all my eggs in one basket, and there was a lot of anxiety. I was never the best version in competitions I could have been."

Sunil Chhetri

The experienced India and Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri has been there and done a lot. In the context of playing at a time of COVID-19, Chettri had spoken about the challenges of staying entirely inside bio-bubble. "It's bound to get to everyone – junior or not. But yes, it is important that we work on and take care of our mental health in a big way. We will have to rally around each other. This is a season and a situation like none before. It will need adapting on the pitch and outside of it too. Staying cooped up in a hotel will be tough, playing in empty stadiums will be tough, staying away from families for that long a period will be tough. It's going to be a challenge, physically, but also mentally," Chhetri told The Telegraph in an interview.

Anisha Padukone

Golfer Anisha Padukone had also shared her challenges that mentally made her edgy. "Growing up in a sporting family, being exceptional was always an underlying emotion. One of the challenges for me was to accept that it is okay to fail. And, for many athletes, it should be highlighted that it is okay not to succeed. I feel failure teaches you a lot more than victory. Accepting failure should be the first step for athletes and these could teach us a lot more. It is important to have some support system of coaches and family members who can help bear down the pressure of these athletes," she said.

Harmanpreet Kaur

Indian women's cricket captain in T20s, Harmanpreet Kaur also came up and urged the BCCI to appoint a psychologist for the team. "We have requested the BCCI for someone like a sports psychologist, who can travel with us. We have spoken to the coach as well. Nowadays, the pressure is high. You need someone to discuss things when they are not fine," she had said at her request.

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