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Understanding the relation between physical injuries and mental health

What the warning signs are and where to get help
youth mental health
Posted at 4:03 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 19:50:06-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla — “Our biggest challenge is a result of this sport culture you know that tells athletes to be tough…to work through pain…to show minimal signs of weakness. And so it makes it hard for them sometimes to reach out to get the help that they need.”

Today my colleagues and I breathed a sign of relief when we heard doctors were able to remove Damar Hamlin's breathing tube.

What happened to the Buffalo Bills' safety earlier this week left so many of us in shock and opened up a number of conversations.

I couldn't help but think about the impact an injury can have on not only people's physical health, but their mental health as well.

In 2021, exercise equipment accounted for about 409,000 injuries — the most in any category of sports and recreation. That's according to The National Safety Council. Physical recovery is only one aspect of coping with an injury that can change your life, especially if that sport or activity is part of your daily routine.

Kathy Feinstein, a local licensed mental health counselor and sports performance consultant says, “They often times use that physical activity as a way of being, right? And then all of a sudden they can’t work out…they can’t run…and so it’s really, really difficult to sit with that.” Kathy helped me to understand the relation between injuries and mental health.

She tells me there are warning signs that you can look for if you or a loved one could use mental health support while recovering.

  • Socially Withdrawing …not spending time with friends
  • Changes in their appetite 
  • Changes in their sleep patterns
  • Losing interests in the things they normally love doing 
  • Self harm 
  • Irritability
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal ideation…talking about feeling hopeless or not wanting to be here 

Feinstein says any changes in interest of things that you might have previously enjoyed doing, irritability, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or substance abuse, can be signs of the toll of a physical injury is taking on your mental health.

If you notice changes in your behavior or the behavior of a loved one following a serious injury, whether sports-related or otherwise, Feinstein says there's resources for you, and reaching out to a licensed mental health expert or counselor is one step in the road to recovery.

Here are some sources you can go to if you or someone you know might need help:
NAMI locations in FL
David Lawrence Centers
The Traveling Therapist