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The Inevitable Is Happening

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

What do Lebron James, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles have in common? These generational talents are all taking part in this epic pivot.

Sometimes the easiest way to hide something from someone is to put it right under their nose. In the world of sports, there is an epic pivot happening; and it’s happening quietly. It comes with substantial financial backing, world renown star power, and never before seen coverage.

Why has Lebron James partnered with Calm? Michael Phelps with Talkspace? Or Simone Biles

with Cerebral? These generational talents are all taking part in this epic pivot.

At the zenith of the performance when physical attributes are similar, success hinges heavily on

psychological components (Igono, 2019; Wieser & Thiel, 2014). Recent conversations regarding mental health and mental performance are unprecedented. We are now seeing more vulnerability in this area than any point in history, particularly with athletes.

Traditionally, when an athlete is struggling, he or she is told to go and see an EAP, the “shrink”, the psychiatrist, well-intentioned coaches, or people who aren’t necessarily qualified. On top of this, many players simply do not trust these outlets, so they refrain from using them. This is no surprise, as athletes are somewhat of a microcosm of society in that only 41 % of people with mental health issues use mental health services in any given year (National Council for Behavioral Health, 2015). Furthermore, there is a serious delay in getting help, with world median reports 3 to 30 years for anxiety disorders, 1-14 years for mood disorders, and 6-18 for substance use disorders (National Council for Behavioral Health, 2015). So what is the answer?

Many athletes are turning to technology, more specifically, their mobile devices. In our

technologically advanced society, some research indicates that we are spending an average of 20-30% of our computing and mobile time on social media, respectively (Scheinbaum, 2018). With voluminous information being available, it’s no surprise that athletes are seeking help in areas they may already be spending a lot of time.

Mental health is a complex phenomenon, and a model such as the biopsychosocial model may be beneficial in addressing mental health issues that many athletes face. This model address three main areas, namely one’s biology, psychology, and environment.

Biology may include questions like:

“Is the athlete getting enough exercise, sleep, hydration, recovery?”

Psychology may include questions like:

“Is the athlete rejuvenating their mind by practicing things such as prayer, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, reading, building self-esteem, etc?”

Environment may include questions like:

“How is the athlete’s home life? Are they surrounded by healthy relationships? Are they able to have sufficient quiet time?”

First developed by George Engel, the biopsychosocial model suggests that when these areas are addressed, it may yield a more mentally healthy individual (Kusnanto, Agustian, & Hilmanto, 2018). The inevitable is happening. Help is more readily available. The advent of apps and the massive endorsements that accompany them are great, but the biopsychosocial model and professionals who know how to help athletes with its implementation may add value in more fully restoring balance for athletes.


Igono, J. (2019). Mental Toughness in English and Spanish Speaking Professional Baseball Players (Doctoral dissertation, Grand Canyon University).

Kusnanto, H., Agustian, D., & Hilmanto, D. (2018). Biopsychosocial model of illnesses in

primary care: A hermeneutic literature review. Journal of Family Medicine & Primary

Care, 7(3), 497–500.

National Council for Behavioral Health. (2015). Mental Health First Aid USA. Washington, DC:

National Council for Behavioral Health

Scheinbaum, Angeline Close, editor. (2018). The Dark Side of Social Media. New York, NY:


Wieser, R., & Thiel, H. (2014). A survey of ‘mental hardiness’ and ‘mental toughness’ in

professional male football players. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 22 (1), 114-121.

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