TORONTO – Recently crowned world champion Nathan Clement knows life for a high-performance athlete can be burdensome.
Those challenges possibly all came roaring back to him on August 9, when he struggled to hold back tears after winning the gold medal in the men’s T1 time trial at the Para cycling road world championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
But a big factor in the 29-year-old’s first international triumph was his ability to prioritize his mental health. As Clement indicated, that’s not an easy task in the world of high-performance sport where demands, travel, and necessities quickly fill the calendar.
‘’I'm really respecting my mental health,’’ he said. ‘’It's so easy to get lost in that downward spiral: ‘I have to perform, I have to be on the podium, if I don't go to this Games, I'm not going to get carding (federal funding) and if I don’t get funding, what's going to happen next year, how long are we able to afford this?’
‘’It’s really making sure that when those moments do come up, taking that step back, relaxing, and really finding stuff you love outside of sport.”
Blaise Mutware, a member of Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team says emotional support helps him deal with his challenges on and off the court.
‘’Finding that Zen moment on court is key,” said the 29-year-old Rwanda native who moved to Canada with his mother at age 13. ‘’You just achieve that by taking care of things, before, during and after. For me my mental health relies on people around me and that’s my teammates, my friends, my family.’’
Despite his young age, Clement has the advantage of already going through the high-performance merry-go-round once. He was a member of Canada’s Para swimming team and competed at the 2016 Paralympic Games. He learned the lessons he would incorporate in his cycling career that started in 2022.
‘’Being in my early 20s I did not have the great experiences in my own life,” he recalled. ‘’Being able to have that experience now, I learned what I went through when I was a swimmer and made sure that I'm taking care of myself.’’
The stories of athletes like Clement and Mutware remind us of the vital importance of prioritizing mental health in the world of high-performance sports. The pressures and demands on these athletes can be overwhelming, but they have demonstrated that seeking emotional support, both on and off the field, is key to their success and well-being.
With World Mental Health Day today (October 10), it serves as a powerful reminder that mental health is a concern for everyone, regardless of their profession or background. It is essential to raise awareness of mental health issues and the value of mental health support.
If you or someone you know is in need of mental health resources, several organizations and programs are available to offer help and support:
· Kids Help Phone: A resource for children and youth in Canada who are seeking support and guidance for their mental health.
· Wellness Together Canada: Provides a wide range of mental health and wellness resources for Canadians of all ages.
· Hope for Wellness: Offers counseling and crisis intervention services for Indigenous people in Canada.
· Game Plan: Canada's total athlete wellness program, designed to provide national team athletes with the mental health resources they need to thrive in their careers and personal lives.
· Be There Certificate by Jack.org: Learn how to support someone struggling with their mental health through this free, self-paced online course. Gain essential knowledge, skills, and confidence to help those in need.
Remember, mental health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being, and seeking support is a sign of strength. Let's continue to prioritize mental health and support those in need on their journey to success and happiness.