Society Magazine

Ignoring the Elephant in the Room

Posted on the 26 March 2015 by Brutallyhonest @Ricksteroni

I came across this story today and was immediately saddened by it:

On Jan. 17, 2014, University of Pennsylvania runner Madison Holleran committed suicide. She was 19. MadisonHolleranSince this tragedy, the sports community has struggled to address the root cause of Holleran's death: mental health.

To gauge the current climate inside locker rooms, FOX Sports interviewed more than 25 female student-athletes along with NCAA officials and mental health experts. Though these student-athletes told stories of resilience, they also revealed cautionary tales for the well-being of young women in college sports.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, women are "nearly twice as likely" as men to develop depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Add in the stress of sports commitments and you have a dangerous combination. The majority of women interviewed pointed to eating disorders related to their sport as the top issue.

"We talk about [body image] every day," said a group of University of Southern California lacrosse players. Anorexia or bulimia is twice as rampant among athletes versus the general population of women, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).

The pressures of women to gain muscle in training but stay thin to uphold a standard of beauty outside of sports is irreconcilable. "I've never met a gymnast who was in love with their body," a former D-I gymnast revealed.

In sports, the private issue of women's body image becomes public. Dartmouth volleyball player Alexandra Schoenberger's trainers would hook her up to a machine to track changes in her body fat percentage, which sounded like the sports equivalent of the "jiggle test."

A D-I swimmer recalled men wore T-shirts that read "Whale watching" in reference to her team. Even in the coverage of Holleran's death, many were shocked to see the media use photos of the young woman wearing a bikini, taken from her Instagram account.

Bottom line, mental health is a matter of safety, not only because of suicide risk but also the detriment to long-term physical health. Eating disorders are common causes of heart problems and osteoporosis. Anorexia and bulimia have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness according to ANAD. More women have eating disorders than breast cancer, yet every major women's and men's sport has a pink ribbon campaign while mental health issues go unnoticed.

So where do these student-athletes go for help?

The piece goes on to chronicle how most student-athletes do not avail themselves to on campus psychological services because of the stigma associated with mental illness which I'll admit is problematic but there's an additional service I think most of these women are ignoring that is even more detrimental.

I wish someone would do a study (and perhaps they already have and I'm simply unaware) of the effects on the human psyche not having a religious foundation is having on these women, particularly those who struggle with body image and how others see them.

This bald paunchy guy with a big nose, no butt and buck teeth has overcome these 'failings' by coming to believe (late admittedly) that I am created by God, with all my flaws, for divine reasons and that my focusing less on what I look like and more on understanding those reasons and pursuing them with vigor brings the kind of contentedness and fulfillment I'll not find anywhere else.

How would most women cope with notional concepts of body image should they adopt the same mentality?

I think this to be a fair question but one society will ignore because of the stigma religion now has in this culture.  Or... because... I'm a guy and a religious one to boot.

It's devastatingly sad.

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