The Other Side of the Game: Black Athletes and Mental Health 


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By Anissa Durham, Word in Black

With an increase in Black youth suicide rates, it’s more important than ever to normalize the conversation on mental health.

Young African American football player (Credit: digitalskillet via Getty Images).

Sports is a sanctuary for young Black athletes. 

But behind the victories and million-dollar contracts, Black athletes often go unnoticed when it comes to their mental health.  

“I don’t think people understand the situations where a lot of these athletes come from,” Doug Middleton, a former NFL safety, says. “Sports is like our therapy.” 

Middleton knows all too well what can happen when Black athletes don’t have the support they need to cope with the pressures of life. 

In his second year with the New York Jets, his best friend, AJ, died by suicide. Although Middleton was raised by a mom who worked as a licensed counselor, it wasn’t until AJ’s suicide that he became more knowledgeable about the importance of taking care of your mental health. 

“His passing was more about the awareness and light that it brought to things that may have been on the wayside for me,” he says. “I was always around mental health … but I never really understood it to that level.” 

Continue reading.

Read another article about Black youth in sports in this Breaking News article.

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