An essential factor for any professional, mental health is often relegated to the background by several factors. Lack of time, lack of money, and even shame in seeking some therapeutic method limit the worker to seek help in an increasingly fast world that demands a lot from those who work.
The psychologist Bia Porfírio cites prejudice and resistance as obstacles for someone to seek treatment. “When we talk about mental health, there are some things we need to take into consideration. The first is prejudice (…). Talking about being emotionally ill is still very unlikely. Mental illness is part of life”, explains Bia.
Game assignments are tight and require constant travel; the acting environment is a veritable melting pot of emotions. Outside of it, verbal – and sometimes even physical – abuses from fans are a constant of the craft. As Bia points out, the fear of failure is also present in the lives of those who are involved with sports.
With all these difficulties and the distance from the family, the referee’s mental health is impaired, and his performance within the four lines generates problems, both for him and the teams and athletes.
One of the most legendary cases of the NBA was Joey Crawford, who in 2007 kicked Tim Duncan out of the bank of the San Antonio Spurs under the pretext that the star of Gregg Popovich’s team was laughing. Later, he admitted to going through troubled times, and the episode caused him, supported by the league, to seek psychological support.
For Flávia Almeida, Arbitration Coordinator of the National Basketball League and Ph.D. in Physical Education with an unprecedented study in Brazil on Burnout Syndrome in basketball referees, the daily rush leads to an isolation of the individual. “With the increase in technology and a life full of commitments, people are isolating themselves more and more and having less interpersonal relationships healthily, increasing social isolation more and more,” he explains.
“It would be no different with the referee, especially since, due to his work, he spends a lot of time away from home. For this, it is essential that even with the coming and going between games, the referee can maintain a routine of healthy habits, both physical and mental. Regular physical activity, healthy eating, meditation, quality sleep, and maintaining constant contact with family and friends (the technology also helps in this regard) make the referee maintain balance, a significant factor for his performance on the court.
The important thing is always to seek help when you feel that you cannot solve a problem on your own, and the existing support network within the referee group itself is ideal for this first step. However, if these actions are insufficient, the referee should seek expert help from a psychologist,” advises Flavia.
If you have reached this part, we inform you that there is news about suicide in the following paragraphs. If you are uncomfortable, stop reading this text now.
On November 9th, 2021, Uruguayan referee Marcel Ciechanovvechi committed suicide, as reported by El País. He was 35 years old, and, out of respect for his passing, the Uruguayan Basketball Federation suspended the round that would take place on the day.
The Uruguayan Union of Basketball Arbitrators, the UJOBB, posted a letter on its Twitter, asking the country’s government to have more aid and prevention plans on the subject. The publication also stresses that mental pathologies affect the whole of society.