Depression is not something that a parent can treat or a coach can treat. They need to make the referral to mental health professionals, probably a psychiatrist. A good way to start oftentimes is by checking in with the pediatrician or primary care doctor. Oftentimes they will have a list of referrals that they have experienced with and they’re the quarterback on the medical team.
Part of this is once you’ve had a depression, you may have a depression. The treatment may be good and when we dismiss people from treatment and we let the primary care doctor know so that if that comes up again, they’re more alert to it, and they’re monitoring.
Parents can be involved in the treatment. Coaches can be involved in treatment. Oftentimes the best thing a coach can do is to make sure that a depressed kid doesn’t leave the team, if it’s a team thing. That they can maintain contact, that they have a sense of purpose, even if they’re not participating, they’re going to take some time, and that the team is supportive, and oftentimes allow the athlete to address the team about this.
And oftentimes with maybe a psychiatrist or a psychologist or a therapist coming to talk about what this is, because that’s one of those great experiences of athletics. Somebody you really care about that’s going through this difficult time and you don’t know about it and it’s really scary. And so if somebody comes in and says, “I trust you all, and you’re my team, and you need to know this. I’m going to get better, but this is what’s going on.” Then it demystifies the whole idea, and then everybody else is on board. It’s like oh yeah, I know about that, and then they’re more alert to it in the future, both in themselves and in other people, not necessarily athletes.
Anxiety is common, it’s normal, and when kids have anxiety that you deal with it at home by identifying what it is and figuring out a solution. If coaches identify anxiety, they do the same thing, they set the bar lower. They set opportunity for success. They normalize anxiety. As long as there’s recovery, they’ve figured out a recovery time, and that’s one thing that coaches and parents can do, continually build mental health, work towards healthy behaviors, model healthy behaviors, healthy communication. And that’s how we can circle back to really taking a preventive approach towards the mental illnesses that athletics can contribute to.