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.
Mental health is bigger than baseball. It's time to break the stigma.#MentalHealthAwareness pic.twitter.com/eQGrATf4VJ— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) May 15, 2023
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 honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Michael Kopech designed a wallpaper as a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself and others. pic.twitter.com/XTtYDYp5iu— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) May 28, 2022
In the last few years, MLB players have been more vocal about their own mental health.
As part of MLB Together, we are launching a new youth-focused Mental Health & Wellness initiative to educate youth, destigmatize talking about mental health and provide a FREE crisis text line for our fans.— MLB (@MLB) May 18, 2023
Let’s be kind to each other – and ourselves. https://t.co/szuGeqO7U5 pic.twitter.com/rCBBpIWpMq
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.
Q&A with #Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows: On his mental health, physical health, public statement and 'huge step forward'— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) February 12, 2023
"It snowballed into an anxiety monster, but we're in a better place now, and that's in the past." https://t.co/Fm4l3BVGBE
“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.
The Colorado Rockies announced today that they have reinstated right-handed pitcher Daniel Bard from the 15-day injured list and have optioned right-hander Peter Lambert to Triple-A Albuquerque.— Rockies Club Information (@RockiesClubInfo) April 19, 2023
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 was selected 11th overall in 2017, but suffered 3 injuries which sidelined him in 2018-19— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) July 3, 2021
Last night he went 2-4 in his MLB debut
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.
Sox Nation, Family and Friends: pic.twitter.com/pyQe6gnOUg— Jake Burger (@Burgatron13) March 18, 2020
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
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.