Mental health support is becoming part of player development in Major League Baseball

A look at the strides Major League Baseball has taken to providing mental health support

April 8, 2021

Photo credit Getty Images

Aspiring Major League Baseball players spend hours honing their skills in hopes of making the big leagues. Organizations invest heavily into tools that will develop their next big star. These days, clubs are dedicating significant resources into supporting players’ mental health as they are their physical health.

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“There is no greater priority at MLB than the wellness and care of our players,” a representative from MLB’s wellness program told Baseball America in a recent profile about the league’s dedication towards supporting players’ mental health.

“Providing information, instruction and resources that allow our players to be ready to safely compete at their highest level is a tremendous challenge, but one we embrace fully.”

The increased attention to providing mental health support increased exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Baseball America indicated that many organizations held weekly mental health meetings for players and coaches. MLB also provided direct access to mental health resources for their players and staffers through the league’s wellness program.

Dr. Charlie Maher serves as the president of the Professional Baseball Performance Psychology Group, an organization of mental skills coaches and sports psychologists who provide their services to MLB clubs. Today, the group’s total membership stands at 68 members, up from just 12 in 2011.

Maher has seen first-hand how dedicating resources to mental health support can benefit organizations. He believes the next step for clubs is to have a team of mental health professionals working together collaboratively. “You have to get the right kinds of professionals on board,” Maher said, “and they have to work together and collaborate on dealing with the total player—the mental skills coaches dealing with the on-field (and) mental health professionals addressing overall well-being.”

“Having a system that enables such collaboration—that to me is the crucial area. That’s the area that needs to be developed and sustained,” he added.

While MLB has made significant strides over the past few years, Maher would like to continue advancing support systems and provide more opportunities for mental health professionals to work in sports.

“I think we have to continuously advance and improve,” Maher said. “We want to be able to provide for the needs of the player as a performer, as a person, to do that within a context of the individual, the team and the organization.”

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Audacy's I’m Listening initiative aims to encourage those who are dealing with mental health issues to understand they are not alone. If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, know that someone is always there. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.

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