Year: 2023 Source: Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. (2023). SIEC No: 20230290
Introduction Suicide represents a major mental and public health issue. Elite athletes share certain individual and environmental characteristics that may increase their risk for mental illnesses, ultimately leading to suicide. This notion conflicts with the general perception of athletes, being the healthiest representatives of society. Methods A comprehensive literature search was carried out through PubMed and Embase databases for relevant publications. Results Recent calls for investigating suicidality among athletes resulted in a considerable amount of literature providing some evidence regarding lower rates of suicide among professional and high-performance athletes as well as similar incidence and prevalence of mental conditions, which are known as risk factors for suicide. Nevertheless, special attention is required in this population as predisposing and precipitating factors might differ from classical features of suicidality in the general population. Sports physicians, sports psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in elite sports should be aware of early signs of affective disorders, risk of recreational drug abuse, misuse of performance-enhancing medications, sport-specific environmental stressors, serious physical injuries, and presence of physical or mental illness, all of which may increase suicidality. Traumatic brain injury is with suicide with higher severity correlated with increased risk. Compared to active athletes, former athletes may have higher rates of suicide due to common life stressors occurring after sports retirement. Conclusions The findings suggest a multidisciplinary approach to suicidality in elite athletes, the main goal of which should be the reduction of suicide-related morbidity and mortality. Further research is required to clarify the existing gaps in the current knowledge of the issue. While having lower rates of suicide, athletes share some similar (affective disorders, drug abuse, mental and physical illness) as well as unique factors (misuse of performance-enhancing substances, sports-related stressors, sports injuries, TBI) putting them at risk of suicide during active career and retirement.