Several tabloids this week have run sensational headlines claiming that the Mercedes Formula One teams have a "shrink" on standby to console the loser of this year's World Driver's Championship after the final race at Abu Dhabi. Here's why they're all a sack of turds for singling Mercedes out on this.
First of all, this isn't news for this weekend. We've known that Mercedes have been working with sports psychologist Dr. Ceri Evans since at least May, when the team made headlines for bringing him on to work with the team.
"At Mercedes, we want to optimize every aspect of performance, and we believe that there is much to learn from other sports," explained Mercedes Executive Director Toto Wolff to German newspaper Bild. "This includes the performance of the whole team and how we act and react in key moments."
Dr. Evans previously worked with the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, so he is no stranger to high-stress sports environments. In fact, the use of sports psychologists to ensure athletes stay mentally fit is becoming so commonplace in high-pressure professional sports that it simply makes sense for Mercedes to have one on call. As Wolff explained, the goal is to take care of the whole team, and that includes making sure that they're in the right frame of mind to go for a World Driver's Championship.
Sports psychologists are nothing new to motorsports, either. Performance coach Simon Fitchett has worked with David Coulthard, Jerome D'Ambrosio and Sergio Perez in the past. Even Patrick Dempsey's "Racing Le Mans" miniseries featured interviews with Dr. Jacques Dallaire, the coach responsible for helping the actor with the mental side of racing.
Back in May, though, folks were being a bit more charitable with the wording in regards to Mercedes' partnership with Dr. Evans.
Now that everyone's trying to capitalize on the Hamilton vs. Rosberg brouhaha, however, the tabloids are saying that Mercedes have brought in a shrink to help the WDC loser cope. (Never mind that they've had this working relationship with Dr. Evans for months now.)
Secondly, referring to the guy as a "shrink" is a disservice to anyone who reads it. I'm certainly no fan of political correctness, but there are certain subjects that should be handled with a certain amount of maturity and grace. Mental health is one of them.
It's no secret that I've struggled with depression and anxiety in the past. There is nothing more terrifying to me than the prospect of being back in that state. Look at it this way: when there's something broken in the way that you think, it's impossible to take a step back from things and look at them rationally. If you'd have asked me why I can't just cheer up or look at the positives, I'd have told you to eat turds because I can't. That's the problem. If you're really bad off, it's not something you can fix on your own. Professionals are there to help with this, and there's no shame in going to one.
The term "shrink" carries an absurd amount of baggage with it. "Shrinks" are for nuts, drains on society and people incapable of handling themselves like a grown-up. It's a term from before society sort of accepted that seeking help with psychological issues was a perfectly reasonable and understandable thing to do. Even now, I still feel more comfortable talking about my flatulence than I do talking about the psychological issues I've dealt with in the past. That's not right.
Claiming that Merc will send the WDC loser to send a "shrink" isn't just a mockery of what Mercedes are actually doing by having Dr. Evans on hand, but it continues the stigma against seeking help when you really need it.
Headlines like "Mercedes have a SHRINK on standby in case Lewis Hamilton's title bid implodes in Abu Dhabi" (The Mirror) and "F1 loser will see a shrink" (The Sun) is sensationalist horsecrap at its worst, and dishonest journalism to boot. Worse yet is to see that the BBC linked to the sensationalism in their F1 gossip round-up, albeit with less insulting language. Quite frankly, as a state-run agency, the BBC of all places should know better.
There's a lot of pressure that will be hard to deal with this weekend for both drivers, regardless of who comes out on top. I can totally understand if they'd like to talk it out to get in the right frame of mind beforehand, or even to handle the outcome if the double-points play a major role in who takes the win.
You stay classy, Brit-rags.
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