Athlete Hosea Macharinyang’s death on October 9 last year opened the lid on the worrying trend of mental illness and how they are shattering sports.
Several world beaters in athletics, football and other sports are reportedly battling depression.
From loss of hard-earned cash and assets in fraudulent deals, to career threatening injuries, failed marriages and doping allegations, several athletes have resorted to excessive drinking of alcohol to buckskin their frustrations.
“I urge managers to be closer to their athletes. Let us not only get closer to them when they are winning, but abandon them at their hour of need,” Elgeyo Marakwet AK secretary Boniface Tiren said following Macharinyang’s death.
In 2020, three-time 1500m world champion Asbel Kiprop was a frustrated man following his four-year ban. Luckily, he secured professional counselling from his employer – the National Police Service.
Recently, former athlete Duncan Kibet, also known as Jamaica – a former Rotterdam Marathon champion, was reported to have sunk into depression after losing his wealth through a fraudulent deal.
Calls for athletes to speak out on issues affecting their lives intensified late last year following the killing of two-time world bronze medallist Agnes Tirop in Iten.
Two days ago, National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) Secretary General Francis Mutuku said the committee deployed a range of technical personnel to complement the work of coaches and other athlete entourage teams in the areas of sports science, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sports psychologist, during Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Mutuku was speaking on Monday during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between NOC-K and Chiromo Hospital Group (CHG) that will see the Level 5 hospital extend its services to Kenyan athletes in a joint campaign dubbed Tufunguke Wanaspoti.
The aim of the deal is to establish a collaboration between NOC-K and CHG in the provision of promotive, preventive, and curative mental health services to the country’s sportsmen and women.
Under the deal, sportsmen and women will train on how to identify, control and manage mental health-related conditions; build awareness by way of structured mental health talks as well as carry out digitised self-mental health wellness assessments.
The deal is also geared towards mental health support to Team Kenya ahead of key global competitions including World Championships and Commonwealth Games this year.
Mutuku assured the hospital, which was represented by its CEO Vincent Hongo at the signing ceremony, that NOC-K will mobilise and facilitate its members for the critical services of mental health awareness talks and wellness through conferences and online platforms.
NOC-K President Paul Tergat's representative in the event, Shadrack Maluki said athletes are also subjected to mental challenges by pressure to perform in international competitions.
“The pressure to perform will be big this year with the Commonwealth Games and Africa Youth Games around the corner," said Maluki.
Hongo said mental health patients in sports are facing stigma.