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As great as Jake Burger has been on the field this year, his true heroism is the example he’s set off of it.
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MLB’s take on Mental Health Awareness Month

Self-care is always important, beyond the month of May

The first time I heard about depression was at the tender age of four. My younger sister had passed away, and I spent my afternoons talking to a therapist about how that made me feel. I can still smell the scented markers I used to put feelings to paper, and I still find comfort in hearing Mister Rogers as it played in the waiting room. That was the beginning of my mental health journey, and what a rollercoaster ride it would be.

How does this tie into a website that focuses on the White Sox?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and one thing this team is good about is talking about mental health.

Players have been open about their mental health in recent years. Michael Kopech sat out the season in 2020, and opened up about having anxiety and depression. Last May, the White Sox tweeted a wallpaper designed by Kopech as a reminder to be kind to yourself.

In the last few years, MLB players have been more vocal about their own mental health.

As I write this, right-handed pitcher Trevor May spoke out about how he contemplated retirement due to his anxiety, which was worsened by baseball’s new pitch clock. He mentioned how the pitch clock created more anxiousness because he didn’t have enough time to employ the same breathing and readiness techniques he used to rely upon in previous seasons. May was placed on the 15-day injured list with issues related to anxiety just one day after allowing three earned runs in a third of an inning to the Cubs. While May doesn’t know when he’ll pitch again, he’s been working on new ways to develop confidence with the A’s sports psychologist.

May is just one example, and not the first. Detroit Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows was placed on the 10-day injured list to focus on his mental health. Meadows missed most of the 2022 season due to anxiety-related issues, and appeared in just 36 games after arriving via trade with Tampa Bay.

“The Tigers fully support Austin’s decision to step away from the team and prioritize his mental health,” general manager Scott Harris said. “As an organization, we have taken many steps to provide and destigmatize mental health resources, and we will do more to help our players tackle the mental and physical challenges they face on a daily basis.”

Another vocal player has been Rockies closer Daniel Bard. At the start of the season, Bard was on the injured list, with anxiety. Bard battled control problems earlier in his career, and quit baseball after the 2017 season. He worked as a player mentor and mental skills coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2018-20 until returning to baseball via the Rockies.

All of the stories I’ve shared thus far encapsulate what people all over the world deal with on a daily basis. Yet one player sticks out more than most, and it’s a player we White Sox fans love, especially as of late.

Jake Burger, the team’s 2017 first round pick, had two left Achilles injuries in 2018. Then before the 2019 season, heel tendinitis, a bone bruise, and a stress reaction ended his comeback before it started. Burger was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the second Achilles rupture.

“I can still hear the pop in my head,” Burger said. “The anxiety kind of came from that.”

Soon after, Burger tweeted a personal note about his own struggles with mental health in the hopes of building a community.

He then moved the needle even further with Burger Bombs, an online community created to talk openly about struggles and remind people that they are not alone. It even came with a catchy acronym.

Burger Bombs stands for:

B. be open
O. open a book
M. meditation
B. break a sweat
S. set a routine

This serves as a gentle reminder to take care of yourself. Mental health struggles can and likely will happen to anyone, and sometimes that includes your favorite MLB player. As cliché as this idea has been over the years, everyone you know is quietly fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Please know that you can carry over mental health awareness past May. We should all work to destigmatize speaking about mental health day after day.

If you are feeling like you’re unable to cope, please reach out to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.


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