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Patrice Bergeron des Bruins talks about mental health in sport: don’t “suffer alone”


Bergeron said Monday it was “great” for athletes to have more open discussions about mental health – a topic that has often been “almost taboo” to talk about.

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins prepares for a face-off. AP Photo / Gene J. Puskar

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Professional sports may not be for the faint hearted, but the people who play them are still human. Veteran Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron knows this, having played in the NHL – a sport that demands top-notch mental and physical strength – for 18 seasons.

But the mind health side of things, he said, was often not part of the discussion.

“I think that’s something that I guess earlier in my career wasn’t something we talked about a lot, although it was still very important,” the longtime Bruin said afterwards. the training of the team’s first captain on Monday. “It was something that was at times almost taboo and frowned upon.”

Now Bergeron says he sees the public debate over mental health among athletes – NBA stars Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan acknowledging struggles with anxiety and depression to gymnastics legend Simone Biles and star of tennis Naomi Osaki prioritizing mental health before competition – starting to take place more regularly in her league.

“I think it’s great that it’s a little more out there and that people realize that sometimes it’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s okay to ask and seek help. It’s important to do it, ”he said.

In recent times, the Osaka and Biles sagas in particular have served as internationally discussed examples of Bergeron’s point.

Rising tennis star Osaka notably withdrew from Roland Garros after admitting mental health issues regarding his media responsibilities. She has since said she plans to take an indefinite hiatus from tennis after losing at the US Open.

Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, withdrew from several gymnastics competitions at the Olympics after battling “twisties” and fearing for her physical and mental well-being.

Despite criticism from some corners of the sporting and public world, both received support for their decisions and the discourse that they helped bring to the fore on mental health in sport.

“For us as athletes, I think we have a platform to show that we also go through some of these things and that it’s important to reach out,” said Bergeron. “I have said it many times, not to suffer alone. I think for me it has been a learning process in my career where there have been a lot of ups and downs. There’s a lot of pressure, I guess, and expectations – from yourself, from the outside, from your team, whatever it is.

“There are also a lot of personal issues that come into play that you have to deal with like a normal, normal human being. I think there are a lot of things going with this question. There are a lot of things you need to realize that it’s okay to ask and seek help and have these conversations. There is nothing wrong with contacting your teammates or coworkers or friends to help you with this.

The veteran Bruins center has opened up about his own struggles with depression after suffering a season-ending concussion in 2007, saying he had found himself “in a dark place for a while” and “not being not feel himself “. When that happened, he admitted that he was able to rely on his family, teammates and sports psychologists to help him find his way.

He then paid for that experience to help out Gemel Smith, a young player who was immersed in his own battling depression when he briefly joined the Bruins last season. Bergeron contacted Smith after arriving in Boston after being claimed on waivers from the Dallas Stars and reiterated that familiar message: Smith “didn’t have to suffer alone.”

“Know that [Bergeron] going through the same experience lets me know that I’m no better than anyone for not telling another person, ”Smith said in an interview with TSN after their conversation. “Talking about it has helped me a lot. It helped me to be aware of the situation and not be ashamed of the situation. Patrice helped me stay with it, and here I am now.

Bergeron notes that sports psychologists like Dr Stephen Durant of Massachusetts General Hospital, who works with both the Bruins and the Red Sox, have played an increased role in helping athletes manage their mental health more comfortably.

He also says that sometimes “getting away” from the game can also be good for health, which is something forward Chris Wagner admitted players’ mental well-being was even more strained last season.

“It’s good to have a bad day,” said Bergeron. ” This is completely normal. It’s OK to feel depressed or whatever. It’s about what you are able to accept, what you want to do with it, and how you want to deal with it.

“I think getting away from – for me sometimes is getting away from hockey. I have three children who I have to hunt daily. I think it helps me get away from the game, and I think it’s great to be a father that way. If I want to get off the rink it kind of helps me put things in perspective and be grateful for all that life has given me… getting away from things and trying to clear your mind is very important as a professional athlete.

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