Researchers hope the study results will help the next generation of athletes protect against psychological breakdowns

Researchers at Loughborough University have published findings that they say may help athletes to understand the triggers that cause depression.

Dr David Fletcher, a senior lecturer in sport and performance psychology in the school of sport, exercise and health sciences, collaborated with experts at the Open University to scrutinise the autobiographies of 12 high-profile sportspeople, studying their accounts of depression, low self-esteem and feelings of failure.

Those under the microscope included Victoria Pendleton, Jonny Wilkinson, Andre Agassi and Serena Williams, and Fletcher says the results will help the next generation of athletes protect against psychological breakdowns.

“We expect this research to help inform all those involved with elite athletes about the role that sport may play in relation to depression, particularly pre-cursors or warning signs such as an overly self-critical nature, perfectionism, and fear of failure,” Fletcher said.

“The better the understanding of depression in sport is, the better placed practitioners and coaches will be to identify, monitor and manage such episodes.”

Two-time Olympian Andy Baddeley (pictured) has spoken about his own experiences of depression. “It’s a ludicrously hard thing to admit to feeling depressed, especially when I have no way  of quantifying it,” Baddeley has said.

Likewise, Dame Kelly Holmes has revealed she battled depression throughout her career. “Having suffered from depression myself, I know how horrendous it is to feel so low and so desperate that you actually want to harm yourself,” she said.

In support of Time to Talk Day, England Athletics, supported by Mind, the mental health charity, recently encouraged people to #runandtalk to improve their mental wellbeing.

Visit time-to-change.org.uk for more information.