10 Athletes Who Have Opened Up About Their Struggles With Mental Illness

Diply 12 Jun 2018

Never judge a book by its cover because you never know what someone is going through — no matter how perfect their life might seem.

These athletes are living proof that even seemingly successful, tough, and driven people can suffer, too.

But they don't let it define them, and you don't have to either.

1. DeMar DeRozan

Wikipedia | Wikipedia

Toronto Raptors' all-star DeMar DeRozan first hinted at a battle with mental illness in an interview with the Toronto Star. In February DeRozan tweeted, "This depression get the best of me."

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The basketball star, who seemingly has it all, opened up to Smith about his times fighting depression, anxiety, and loneliness. 

Raptors Republic | Raptors Republic

His candidness prompted a widespread conversation and even pushed Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love to open up about his own demons.

During the 2018 playoffs, DeRozan and Love were featured in an ad promoting mental health.

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2. Kevin Love

Giphy | Giphy

As mentioned above, Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love was inspired by DeRozan's open honesty about his personal demons, that he decided to open up about his own in a piece on the Players' Tribune.

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In a piece titled, "Everyone is Going Through Something," Love describes his experience with a panic attack during a game against the Atlanta Hawks mid-season and his ensuing battle with mental health.

YouTube | House of Highlights

One of the strongest lines from the piece comes when Love points out, "Mental health isn't just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn't have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing."

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3. Rose Namajunas

Instagram | @rosenamajunas

One of the best female MMA fighters out there, Namajunas wouldn't let an opponent who was trying to attack her family history of mental illness get to her head.

In the week leading up to their fight, Joanna Jedrzejczyk called Namajunas "mentally unstable" and said that she has "personal problems," but Namajunas didn't let it bother her. Rather, she used it as a learning experience, saying she took the time to read books, study mental illness, and what it really is.

Then Namajunas knocked Jedrzejczyk out in the first round.

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4. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Instagram | @therock

While it may seem like Johnson is non-human, the former pro-wrestler-turned mega-movie star opened up about his secret battle with depression and how witnessing his mother's suicide attempt at age 15 impacted his life. "Struggle and pain is real. I was devastated and depressed," he said.

Johnson takes every opportunity to let fans and others who may be fighting that they're not alone. "I hear you. I've battled that beast more than once," the star wrote back when a fan reached out.

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5. Daniel Carcillo

YouTube | The Players' Tribune

The former NHL hockey player has opened up on many occasions about his fight against mental illness, even taking time to use his experience to help others on SickNotWeak.

On his Twitter, Carcillo describes himself as a 2x Stanley Cup winner, but also a mental health & concussion advocate — his cover photo dons the words "Voice of the Voiceless," an ode to Total Player Development Hockey, the organization he started after he retired from his 11-year NHL career.

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He also started the Chapter 5 organization whose goal it is to "help athletes discover their new purpose and transition into life after the game."

TPD Hockey | TPD Hockey

His feed is filled with words of encouragement for other players and people who have opened up about their struggles, as well as links to resources and informative articles.

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6. Theo Fleury

Twitter | Theo Fleury

Theo Fleury was a hockey legend — an NHL all-star, Stanley Cup Winner, and Olympic gold medalist — but off the ice, he suffered greatly with mental health issues and addiction, and never felt as though he could talk about it.

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Four years after Fleury got sober, he co-wrote and published his biography, Playing With Fire, which outlines his life battling demons, stemming from sexual abuse he endured as a kid. 

YouTube | Conversations Rattlesnake

He's since dedicated his post-hockey life to helping men who suffer from childhood trauma to find the strength to not only cope with their experiences but to also share.

Fleury has spoken to Michael Landsberg and at countless SickNotWeak events — his courage, bravery, and humor always resonating with those listening.

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7. Joey Votto

YouTube | FOX Sports Ohio

Cincinnati Reds first baseman and Canadian Joey Votto opened up about his grief and anxiety in 2009, stemming from the loss of his father. Votto was put on the disabled list but it wasn't until after he came back that he explained publicly he had been dealing with anxiety attacks.

Votto spoke on the importance of talking about depression, stating, "I really hadn't acknowledged how important it is to express the things I had been dealing with on the inside."

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8. Serena Williams

Instagram | @serenawilliams

In 2011, Serena Williams opened up about the depression she suffered while forced to sit on the sidelines due to a long injury layoff. “I cried all the time. I was miserable to be around.”

She also opened up again about the anxiety she feels on the court during matches and spoke about how since giving birth to her daughter Olympia, a lot of that anxiety has "disappeared."

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9. Stéphane Richer

Wikipedia | Wikipedia

Michael Landsberg calls his interview with former Hockey star Stephane Richer, in which they both talk about their struggles with depression for the first time, his "defining moment."

We could write about it, but it's better to watch the video here.

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Richer, who is the last Montreal Canadiens player to score 50 goals in a season, said he always knew there was something wrong.

YouTube | Swiss Habs

It wasn't until he won the Stanley Cup in 1995 that he realized how "serious" the situation was.

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10. Clara Hughes

YouTube | Bell Canada

Canadian Clara Hughes is a six-time Olympic medalist in both cycling and speed skating and is the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in both summer and winter games.

In her book Open Heart, Open Mind, Hughes detailed her teenage years using drugs and drinking as a way to cope with issues in her home life and how her battle with severe depression was being masked by her "physical extremes, her emotional setbacks and her partying."

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Hughes now uses her voice to fight to end the stigma. She is the national spokesperson for Bell Canada's Mental Health initiative and the "Let's Talk" campaign.

YouTube | Bell Canada

In the documentary Clara's Big Ride, Hughes cycled 11,000 kilometers for 110 days across the country to get the conversation going about mental illness.

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