The media should do more to protect the mental health of the stars upon whose lives their jobs depend

Professional sportspeople’s elite ability is such that they operate within the top 1% globally of their respective disciplines. However, despite this jaw-dropping talent, for many years the media have targeted them with news stories whenever their form drops.

These publications can be seriously damaging to an individual’s mental health, causing even the most dedicated sportsperson to feel overwhelmed with negativity and doubt over their abilities. This will in turn affect their confidence in other walks of life, potentially leading to the development of life-altering mental illnesses.

A recent example that has come to light of someone who has suffered with abuse at the hands of the media is Andrew Flintoff, who revealed that he developed bulimia – an eating disorder – on the back of a series of criticism he faced whilst playing cricket at the highest level.

In a recent documentary about his battle with bulimia, Andrew, known more commonly as Freddie, revealed that being labelled by the media as a ‘fat cricketer’ had such a damaging impact on his mental health that it triggered him to develop the eating disorder, which he feels contributed to his career ending prematurely.

We, the general public, can unintentionally be insensitive to professional athletes, as we idolise them to the extent that we see them as almost inhuman and subsequently, immune to the insults us mere mortals would be affected by.

However, when an athlete experiences a slump in their performance and the media jumps on top of them, criticising their game and sometimes questioning their attitude to the sport, perhaps the media should take into greater consideration the personal issues that the athlete may be going through at that particular moment in their life, that might have caused them to not perform to their top of their ability.

The media should face greater scrutiny over the release of these publications, for this criticism can be very damaging, as Flintoff’s ordeal only serves to show.

In a modern era enlightened about the seriousness of mental health issues, we should no longer be the cause of athletes feeling consumed by negativity and doubt. Rather, we should take greater care with what we put out there and consider who it may impact and how.

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Drew Murphy

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October 2021
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