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Depression in Athletes, Their Silent Battle Off the Field

Written March 19th, 2015
Categories: Depression

From Youth to Retirement, Athletes are Discussing Their Struggles with Depression

depressed-athletesThe World of Sports, America’s most celebrated pastime and universal language extending beyond gender, race, religion, age, ethnicity, education and income. We’ve grown to admire athletes for their determination, perseverance, physical strength, speed, and endurance. We look to these super-heroic individuals as role models and sources of inspiration, and in return, these stoics are fiercely compelled to not let their fans, teammates or coaches down. Strong and fearless they may be; however, athletes can and do suffer with depression. Depression is a serious medical illness affecting more than 14 million Americans each year. It is a condition which lasts two or more weeks and interferes with a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks and enjoyed activities that previously brought pleasure.

Former University of Michigan Defensive Lineman (2007-2011) and honors graduate, Will Heininger publically discussed the most challenging battle he’s had to fight, and it wasn’t on the field. “I had emotional pain that was overwhelming; I would wake up, and from morning until I fell asleep—when I was able to sleep – I had troubling thoughts that were utterly consuming. Not a minute would go by in a day without my depression on my mind… this, this felt impossible.”2 After receiving treatment for his depression, Heininger returned to his alma mater to help develop Athletes Connected, a pioneering program that educates students in identifying mental issues amongst their peers and offers athletes access to mental health resources.3

Contributing Factors Leading to Depression in College Athletes

  • Over-training
  • Heavy workload
  • The pressure to deliver peak performance
  • Lack of rest/sleep
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Injuries

Heininger is not alone in his struggle with depression nor with his efforts to bring wide-spread awareness. More and more collegiate and professional athletes as well as former Olympians are publically discussing their struggles with depression, thus giving voice and support to what has traditionally been a silent suffering amongst athletes. Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall also speaks openly about his personal struggle with mental illness. Marshall has gone public in an effort to …”break the stigma… and it starts with creating the conversation.” Depression not only afflicts young athletes, but retired NFL players have been increasingly sited in the media with stories of struggles with depression and tragically, several reported suicides.

A survey of 1,600 members of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) reports that 15% of retired football players experience moderate to severe depression, most of which do not seek medical help due to fear of being unfairly judged as weak.1 A growing body of research is showing a significant correlation between concussion and depression, and individuals having sustained concussions as young adults may be at an even higher risk for developing depression.6 NFL players who have a history of concussion suffer with depression at a rate almost three times greater than the general population.7 This research and clinical studies are linking depression with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated head trauma. CTE affects a person’s cognitive functioning and ability to manage emotions. With the expanding awareness of CTE and depression, an increasing number of active and retired players are seeking professional treatment.

Dwight Hollier, former linebacker with the Miami Dolphins, also struggled with post-career depression. He now runs a mental health assistance program for current and former players and their family members.8 Once retired, Hollier explained, “I didn’t know what to do. I sulked. I withdrew. I isolated myself. I just kind of went into a hole. I didn’t reach out. There’s a stigma with men, with macho men, with athletes, about help-seeking behavior. But I think having conversations and opening up the dialogue has lowered that resistance, and people are reaching out. People are getting the assistance that they need.”9

Whether affected by the rigors of the sport or the emptiness of its cessation; whether affected by traumatic brain injury or suffering with chronic pain, athletes are not impervious to depression. With the recent surge of athletes publicly discussing their depression, more programs nationwide are being created to specifically assist athletes, both active and retired, in identifying and treating mental illness. Kudos to the intrepid men and women who are sharing their personal struggles with depression. Their profound conversations are helping to engender a culture of acceptance and support of those silently suffering with mental illness.

If you have any thoughts regarding athletes and depression, we invite you to share below. Thanks for reading and joining our conversation.


Message of Hope for Depressed Teens at 2015 Academy Awards

Written February 26th, 2015
Categories: Depression, Mental Illness, Suicide

Oscar Winning Screenwriter Graham Moore Publically Shares His Attempted Teen Suicide and Ongoing Struggle with Depression

Oscar Winning Screenwriter Graham Moore

Oscar Winning Screenwriter Graham Moore

He is bold, brazen and courageous!  Screenwritter Graham Moore- age 34, shared his Oscar winning moment with millions of teens around the world as he bravely disclosed his attempted suicide when he was 16 years old.  Moore made abundantly clear that his Hollywood moment in the limelight was not for him alone, but for the numerous teens suffering with depression.

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here, and so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And then when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”
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Antepartum Depression: Depression During Pregnancy

Written February 15th, 2015
Categories: Depression, Depression Treatments, TMS Therapy

Antepartum DepressionPregnancy is one of life’s greatest journeys, and like any new quest, there brings change, unique challenge and discovery. The expecting mother and her partner will likely confront many additional commitments and unique challenges. From numerous doctor visits to added relationship strain and career stress, expecting couples learn to balance and adapt to these new demands. One of the more significant challenges during pregnancy is the physical and emotional impact of surging hormones which affects brain chemistry, sometimes causing a Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).1 There is growing awareness concerning Postpartum Depression- a period of about 6-weeks following the baby’s birth; however, there is practically no awareness and information being shared about the very real potential of suffering from depression during pregnancy- referred to as Antepartum Depression.
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October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month

Written October 1st, 2014
Categories: Neurohealth

october-national-depression-mental-health-screening-monthEveryone has bad days, bouts of sadness or feels down occasionally. Luckily, for some, these feelings of hopelessness often alleviate and pass relatively quickly. However, a growing number of Americans are not as fortunate. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 25 million Americans will have an episode of major depression this year alone.1

Indeed, depression is one of the most common mental health conditions experienced by Americans; which is precisely why October has been named National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. During the entire month, TMS Neuro Health will aim to promote Depression Awareness and help to break the stigma surrounding depression once and for all. In addition, this year’s annual National Depression Screening Day will be October 9th. We hope to reach individuals across the United States with mental health education and help to connect them with different support services.

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You CAN cure Depression. Here’s the Proof.

Written September 16th, 2014
Categories: Depression, Depression Treatments, Mental Illness, Neurohealth, TMS Therapy

Depressrace-winnerion is a very real condition that affects 1 in 10 Americans. Though some dealing with depression at various stages are able to treat and cure their symptoms using an Anti-Depressant medication and/or psychiatry, others are not as successful and end up dealing with Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD). TRD occurs as a result of major depressive disorder which has occurred due to an unsuccessful attempt at treating depression through regular dosages of anti-depressant medication. A variation and/or combination of anti-depressants can be prescribed in this case to help counteract different symptoms in an attempt to treat the depression. Unfortunately, even these drastic measures can still show little to no success, leaving affected individuals feeling hopeless, defeated and even more anxious about their condition. The reality of the TRD can be quite hash, as those affect feel like there are no other options. In fact, one study suggests that anywhere from 29 to 46% of people (depending on the type of medication) fail to respond to treatment of an anti-depressant and 15% of these patients find no relief in multiple treatment trials[1].

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Tips for Reducing Anxiety During Back-to-school Season

Written September 3rd, 2014
Categories: Depression, Mental Illness

Back-To-SchoolIt’s that time again – lunches, homework, new teachers, and new people. For some, back to school time can be exciting and fun but for others, it can be dreaded, bringing on an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety. The break from routine while trying to manage tasks between home and school can be the culprit for stress-related feelings during back to school season however, there are several other factors that can also contribute to these feelings of stress and anxiety. Between different sleeping schedules, trying to plan meals, new friends, classes, teachers and schools, it can be a lot to manage. Some may assimilate to these adjustments very well, while others may struggle with such a new environment that they may be at a higher risk for depression caused by the stress and anxiety of such a new culture. This is a very normal feeling and if you are feeling anxious over your new journey, just know you are not alone and things will get better. In the meantime, acknowledge these tips to help decrease the feelings of stress and anxiety during the back to school season.

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TMS NeuroHealth in Psychiatric Annals’ Journal

Written August 25th, 2014
Categories: Neurohealth

Transcranial Magnetic StimulationThe Journal of Continuing Psychiatric Education – Psychiatric Annals released a feature on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Neuromodulation in June. The feature was edited by TMS NeuroHealth’s very own MD Geoffrey Grammer along with Tarique Perera, MD, which includes an overview of Neuromodulation following a series of comprehensive reviews of TMS Therapy and its various uses. Dr. Grammer also co-authored one of the articles titled “The Role of rTMS in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders Other than Major Depression” where TMS is explored to determine its application towards other psychiatric disorders, providing compelling results of the effects TMS has on several other neurological diseases.

As an increasingly popular form of non-medicinal treatment, TMS is being developed as an extremely effective clinical technique with a clear demand from insurance companies to show support. TMS has the potential to transform the way office-based psychiatric treatment is administered and as the efficacy of this treatment improves, it could cultivate and expand the psychiatric practice as a whole.

To read the full review along with the featured articles, click here: Psychiatric Annals – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Neuromodulation 


Robin Williams’ Death Reminds us Mental Illness can Affect Anyone

Written August 12th, 2014
Categories: Depression, Depression Treatments, Events, Mental Illness, Suicide

Robin WilliamsThe world is mourning the loss of one of the best actors, philanthropists and comedians today as Robin Williams was found deceased in his home yesterday at the age of 63. Williams died from an apparent suicide, when his struggle with depression and substance abuse came to an end. According to his publicists, Williams was likely to be suffering from bipolar disorder along with his severe depression symptoms. He even underwent rehab as recently as July to protect his sobriety.

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Relax with these Top 5 Smartphone Apps for Depression

Written August 8th, 2014
Categories: Depression, Depression Treatments, Neurohealth

Contrary to popular belief, your smartphone can actually provide you with some release of depression symptoms through interacting with innovative applications available to download. Although Smartphones have commonly been linked to increasing depression in teens [1], the ability to disconnect socially from your cell phone and use it in a way that guides you through meditation, relaxation and stress-management, can provide promising advantages. Several of these applications also provide users with access to a plethora of resources and communities to which they can educate themselves and interact with others who are going through similar feelings. These applications may also become a helpful and healthy addition to your depression treatment and can keep your mind off of other stressors going on in your life. Meditation, in fact, is an extremely powerful activity and can reduce your anxiety levels by 70% [2]! Just remember to turn off all other applications, beeps, noises, rings, and tunes while you are in your stress-free, mindful zone in order to avoid distractions and get the most out of these amazing apps.

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6 Useful Self-Help Books for Depression

Written June 27th, 2014
Categories: Depression, Depression Treatments, Neurohealth

Reading can be a form of escape, dreaming even. By taking your mind off of daily life stressors and immersing in a good story, you are benefiting yourself it so many ways. (Did you know that reading a book causes a physiological change in the brain that lasts for days?![1]). Reading is a great way to spend quality time with yourself away from technology and take your mind off things that might be bothering you. For instance, some people who suffer from depression, anxiety or panic attacks find that reading self-help books and other motivational stories helps immensely with depression tolerance. Research has even indicated that reading can be more relaxing than listening to music or going for a walk [2].  We’ve done some research and have come up with a list of 6 great self-help books to read if you are suffering from, or would like to know more about depression. So cuddle up with your pet, a blanket and some tea and enjoy some of these great reads. You won’t regret it.

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