Certified sports psychologist Tatja Holm believes that sports have a significant role in influencing mental health support. Holm, who serves as a sports psychologist at the Helsinki Sports Academy Urhea and the Olympic training center for summer and ice sports in Helsinki, collaborates with national teams in over ten different sports.
Holm acknowledges that mental health challenges, such as exhaustion, depression, and anxiety, are common in many sports. While team sports may pose more challenges related to gameplay, aesthetic disciplines have seen more instances of eating disorders. However, Holm cautions against associating certain disorders with specific sports, asserting that mental health problems can occur in any sport.
Despite the recognition of these challenges, Holm emphasizes that every individual who is suicidal or at risk of suicide is a significant concern. Holm has closely observed young athletes striving for the top, witnessing very challenging situations. He stresses the importance of adequate support and the establishment of a supportive network surrounding the athletes.
Holm also works on a project called Mieli ry A young mind in sports and conducts research on the mental health and psychological well-being of elite athletes at the Institute of Top Sports in Kihu. He notes the stigma and shame associated with mental health challenges, suggesting that normalizing these issues could reduce such negative perceptions.
The sports psychologist emphasizes the importance of understanding mental health as a part of performance. He applauds athletes for expressing themselves and confronting their challenges, reminding that mental health is an asset and the ability to function. Holm agrees with Jere Peiponen, who said in an interview that mental health work still does not fundamentally belong to sports.
Holm believes that more systematic work is needed in sports organizations and clubs, even among young athletes and children. He adds that it is essential to understand mental health as a part of performance.
Holm asserts that mental health is comparable to physical health. He believes that paying more attention to mental well-being and preventive work is crucial in elite sports. He also clarifies that it is possible to have moderate psychological well-being despite facing mental health challenges.
Holm encourages athletes to seek support when they face mental health challenges, emphasizing the importance of evaluating the situation and considering different treatment paths. He also promotes the involvement of the coaching staff and the athlete’s close circle in the support process.
Holm observes that most supported athletes have contact with an expert in sports psychology. He also feels that Finnish sports management and coaches need more information about measures that support mental health. Holm thinks that more education is required on how to act when worry arises and how to get support.