3 Signs Your Teammates May Be Struggling With Depression

Photo Source: Giulliana Fonseca Photography

The tragic, untimely passing of celebrity chef, television host, and BJJ blue belt Anthony Bourdain due to suicide has once again reminded us that no matter how happy someone may seem and how much “everything” they have, they might be fighting a serious and secret battle with their own mind. While people struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide should always be made aware of the resources they have available to get help, we should also take it upon ourselves to reach out when we suspect that someone might not be feeling their best.

If you notice a teammate displaying these signs, take a moment to shoot them a message or pull them aside to talk. You might just end up giving them a bit of positive encouragement on an isolated bad day, but if they’re struggling through something more serious, your effort could be what helps them fight through another day and get the assistance they need.

They speak negatively about themselves.

Depression rarely lets you feel good about yourself, and in your teammates, this can manifest as refusal to accept compliments or self-defeating comments about their jiu-jitsu. If your teammate is down on themselves, saying things like “I’m never going to be good at this,” or “People just roll with me because they feel bad for me,” take it at least somewhat seriously. Yes, we all get down on ourselves occasionally, and plenty of us use self-deprecating humor to make light of the ups and downs of jiu-jitsu, but a teammate who really seems to believe that they’re a burden in class or failing to improve might be fighting something bigger.

They seem tired or sluggish.

The occasional rough day is nothing to worry about — we all have them. But if your teammate starts consistently showing up seeming “out of it,” it might be their depression manifesting as physical symptoms like fatigue, mental fog, and memory loss. External factors might be the reason they’re only giving 20 percent in their rolls, can’t focus while drilling, or get frustrated easily when they aren’t performing at their best, but it could also be caused by something inside their brain.

They stop showing up.

Depression can make even getting out of bed a massive challenge, and making it to the gym can feel absolutely impossible. There are a multitude of ways jiu-jitsu can alleviate symptoms of depression, but your teammates won’t get those benefits if they can’t bring themselves to show up. Some gym members can be counted on to only show up a couple times a month, but if the person who’s usually there at least twice a week stops coming to class, shoot them a message and ask if they’re ok. Avoiding exercise and social interaction is a huge red flag for depression, and just one person reaching out could be the difference between whether or not your teammate gets the help they need.

So what can you do?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to depression, and treatment can often mean a lifetime of medication, talk therapy, and/or lifestyle changes. But this journey, like every other one, starts with a single step. Having a support system and knowing that someone cares about your well-being can be a huge combatant against an illness that convinces you that your existence in the world is irrelevant. Encourage your teammate to seek out mental health services, and hold them to it — check in on them periodically, and help them search for counselors and other resources online. Listen to them if they just want to talk, and treat their problem seriously rather than just telling them to “think positively.”

Chances are you’re not a mental health professional, and you shouldn’t take it as your personal responsibility to “save” someone who’s struggling if you don’t have the training to do so. But all of us can put forth the effort and be kind to others, especially when we suspect that they may need it more than ever.

This is not an exhaustive list, and depression can show itself using many different symptoms. Feel free to share your own symptoms and what helps you alleviate them in the comment section.


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