Today's Daily Dish is going to go a little bit deeper than what is usually seen from the minimal level of intelligence that I'm working with. Unfortunately, this is an issue that affects way too many of us; either directly or indirectly.
Depression is a condition that affects the psychological and physical well-being of each person suffering from the condition. Unfortunately, junior hockey players are at higher risk for depression. The games, the team, and personal expectations have a way of increasing depressive episodes in players with a condition. Its very important that we all recognize the signs of depression to avoid a catastrophic conclusion to an otherwise treatable situation.
Genetics and external stresses are common causes. Regardless of the players physical condition, chemical imbalances (and genetics) are one of the primary triggers. Junior hockey is a very high pressure situation was tremendous focus is on winning and development of individual skills. Injuries and losses challenge many athletes feelings of self-worth and can contribute to the development of depression.
Teammates and coaches need to recognize the signs of depression. Sudden mood swings, emotional withdrawal, anger and anxiousness are a few of the obvious signs. Decrease in sex drive, and inability to concentrate are also indicators.
It's not about being tough. The depression is not a sign of weakness; it's purely a genetic or chemical imbalance. Depression needs to be addressed, and accepted, in the same manner as injury and ailments.
Players spend a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing for the window of opportunity that junior hockey presents. Intense training, practice and trying to adjust to the requirements of being on a team has a way of dominating the players' lives.
When it's time to hang up the skates, players often have a difficult time with a normal routine that doesn't focus on the game. Many players experience depression as their lives transition from developing athlete to the reality of a normal life.
We had a player take his own life after a disagreement with his girlfriend. This happened just a month or so into the season. Our team struggled to cope with the loss. Hockey just didn't seem to matter to a lot of the players and we were almost forced to cancel the remainder of the season. It's never easy to bury a friend.
Did the pressures of junior hockey contribute to our player's decision? We'll never know. But it's something that continues to haunt me to this day.
So do yourself a favor and don't ignore the signs. Many teams talk about being a family so what I'm about to say may hit close to home. Depression is a killer if left untreated. Hockey players are not mental health professionals and coaches are not doctors. Let's make sure issues like depression are properly addressed and treated by professionals. The depressed player is not going to just Snap out of It.
Would we trust the janitor to operate on our knees? What, he's not qualified? See what I mean.
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