Netball: High-profile athletes open up on mental health battles in support of Silver Ferns captain

Two high-profile athletes have revealed their own struggles in competing at elite level, in the wake of Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio withdrawing from netball due to mental health issues.

Dame Valerie Adams and former Australian netball captain Caitlin Bassett have leapt to the support of Ekenasio as they hope their experiences will help other athletes at the top level.

Ekenasio will miss the start of this weekend's ANZ Premiership after reveling her struggles with mental health.

It's a theme that's becoming all too common among top athletes who are speaking out on the topic in hope of a change.

Adams was announced as part of New Zealand’s athletics squad bound for Tokyo on Friday, as she sets her sights on a third gold medal.

Her selection for a record-equaling fifth Olympic campaign will ramp up the pressure and expectation, something that comes with competing at the highest level.

Even with all her experience, Adams is still trying to get a grip on how to handle that pressure.

"It’s hard, very hard being away from my family but I’ve got to keep things in perspective," Adams says.

Even one of the toughest athletes going around is still trying to master that skill of not putting too much pressure on themselves.

"I'm quite a tough person," Adams adds. "I'm really hard on myself and if it's on my program, I’m going to do it but ultimately we want the shot put to go far and being tough all the time is not going to make it go far, all the time.

"It's having the tools to acknowledge when things are getting a little bit too much."

After several of New Zealand's top female athletes have opened up on their ongoing struggles with mental health, they need to step back in order to keep performing at the highest level.

"I think it's just the perception of having to be on all the time," former Australian Diamonds captain Catlin Bassett says. "When you play, you have to be on.

"When you come off the court and meet people you have to be on."

This is a feeling Bassett knows too well, who has crossed the Tasman for some much-need change.

"With everything that’s going on around mental health and Ameliaranne coming out and saying she’s exhausted, for me it was coming out and saying I needed a change otherwise I was going to give the game away."

No athlete wants to reach the point of no return but a lot of competitors feel there is a stigma around mental health.

"I think it’s great that athletes like Ekenasio, who's leading her country can stand up and say I’m struggling," Bassett adds. "It's only going to get better if I'm getting the support I need."

This support is key to the longevity of an athlete's career and if we want to see our top sportsmen and women like Adams succeed at multiple Olympic Games.

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