Calling Major League Baseball a “longtime fortress against psychiatry” Sports Illustrated‘s Pablo S. Torre profiles the organization’s recent efforts to go from an organization notorious for its lack of crying to one which takes the mental health of its players very seriously.
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… baseball has led the way in supporting a growing number of players who have been brave enough to seek assistance for such problems and speak out about them. “Baseball’s older generations like to say, ‘Guys these days just aren’t as tough,'” says Ray Karesky, a licensed psychologist who has directed the Oakland A’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) since 1984. “But what’s different is just that guys have come out and actually admitted their problems.”
Baseball, with its high failure rates (a great hitter still fails two out of every three at-bats), spotlight on individual performance, substantial downtime and long nights on the road, is loaded with mental health stressors. But it’s only now, thanks to the “cover” provided by those few major leaguers bold enough to come forward with their problems, that players at all levels are comfortable enough to address mental health. The revolution began last year, when an unprecedented five big leaguers went on the disabled list for mental health problems — so-called “mental DLs.”
This number isn’t anywhere close to those reported for the general population—the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 26.2% of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year—but for baseball it represents a sea change: Between 1972 and ’91 the grand total of mental DLs in the major leagues was zero.