Last weekend we were surprised by statements by Robin soderling, in which he opened and told something that hardly anyone knew. The former Swedish tennis player confessed that he went through psychological problems during his time as a player and that the anxiety generated by the constant pressure to win made him think of committing suicide. Robin wanted to send a message through his Instagram, aimed at people who are going through the same thing that he did in his day.
Robin Soderling acknowledged in an interview in his country that in his time as a professional tennis player he came to think of committing suicide.
It is a message loaded with courage since it is not easy to open up to the world in this way and demonstrate the hell that you had to go through so many years ago. The naturalness with which it counts is surprising, trying to normalize having mental health problems at the highest level in sport, ensuring that it is more common than people think.
“Like me, most athletes are extremely perfectionists and dedicate their lives to sports. Being an athlete can be incredibly challenging for your mental health and for me, my own fight for perfection and the constant pressure I was putting on myself almost it kills me.
There is a very fine line. On one side of it, you do it all right, you work hard and you push your body to the extreme, you are committed, you are focused and you get results. Putting pressure on yourself and working hard can pay off, but if you cross that line and don’t listen to your body, you don’t give it recovery time, that can ruin your career and your own life. In sports, mental training gives you tools to do better and maximize your potential.
No one gives you information or tools on how you are supposed to handle the pressure on and off the track, how you should take care of yourself mentally the way you take care of your body. In 2011 I got to be in the best physical shape of my life but from one day to the next, I couldn’t even take a step. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t want to be in my skin.
I am happy and I feel lucky to be on the other side now. After struggling with anxiety and panic attacks since July 2011, I have been giving my body and mind time to heal, and now, 9 years later, I feel good again, even better than before. People around me have advised me to talk about all of this but I wanted to wait until I was fully prepared and healed.
The first few years after quitting tennis, I was concerned about not feeling well or having a normal life again. That was something that made me very anxious. What if I had to live in this hell my whole life?
(…) I was lucky to have my wife and my friends, who cared for me and helped me. It is a very ugly and lonely place to be and I think it would have been impossible to get out of there by myself.
It is time to talk about mental illness among professional athletes and do something about it. Studies affirm that more than one in three elite athletes suffer from mental health problems that manifest as stress, eating problems, exhaustion, anxiety and depression.
We need to talk about this and that the next generation of athletes are better prepared than I was, helping them to have a long and healthy career and not have to experience what I or other athletes I know have been through.
You have to educate people, coaches, parents, coaches … and especially the athlete. We all need to remove that stigma that is worthy of weakness. Mental problems happen to everyone and exists in all sports. Just by being able to help a single person by telling my story, I will be happy. “
The Swede has been receiving dozens of messages from other people, thanking him for his courage in making this public and thanking him for what he says, assuring someone that he was also going through something similar and that it had helped him.