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The stigma of mental health in athletes: are mental toughness and mental health seen as contradictory in elite sport?
  1. N James Bauman
  1. Correspondence to Dr N James Bauman, 13401 Dumas Road, Mill Creek, Seattle, WA 98012, USA; jbauman{at}

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Brief history

Mental illness and the stigma attached to those suffering from its affects have been part of human existence throughout history.1 Despite efforts to bring more awareness to the causation and effective treatment of mental health issues, this stigma persists both socially and in the athletic culture. Long established beliefs have proven to be as challenging to change as many of the other discriminatory practices receiving media attention, political dialogue and legal debate (eg, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gay marriage, immigration, legalisation of recreational drugs). Although these other issues have their own set of challenges that inhibit healthy social change, a thread of historical stereotyping is common to all of them, including mental health.

Prevalence of mental health issues

The US Department of Health and Services (USDHS) reported in 2012 that 1 in 5 adults (20%) experience a mental health issue each year.2 USDHS also reported that rate increased to 30% in the age group …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.