Chris Martin's IL stint highlights Red Sox importance to MLB mental health awareness

Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox
Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

On June 5, the Boston Red Sox placed Chris Martin on the injured list. His stint isn't for recovery of a physical ailment, but the organization would have listed one if he wished.

Martin opted to share the truth, though. The veteran reliever was transferred to the 15-day IL for anxiety.

Mental health struggles, in general, have been tough to navigate for a long time. The stigma attached to them made it harder and harder for people to come forward and speak their truth, and to raise awareness for their suffering. But thankfully, that's gradually changed over the last couple of decades.

The Red Sox have been at the forefront of addressing these issues in MLB, and Martin's honesty about his IL stint is one of the latest such efforts.

Red Sox management praised Martin for his openness. Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow said that the organization has resources at its disposal to help players who are experiencing similar mental health struggles to Martin. He also acknowledged that MLB, as a whole, has made significant strides toward mental health acceptance from when he was a player from 2005-2017.

Chris Martin and other Red Sox players have been glowing examples of support for men's mental health care

Skipper Alex Cora also shared a personal anecdote about his previous issues with his mental health as a player.

“I feel like at that time, at that moment, the family suffered, it suffered a lot,” Cora said. “As you guys know, [my daughter] Camila is the daughter of divorced parents. Probably early in my career, I didn’t help my family to be as strong as it should be because there were a lot of demons, a lot of stuff going on in between the lines and in the clubhouse and out of baseball.”

Jarren Duran has been public about the steps he's taken to address his mental health needs and he credited Kenley Jansen as his inspiration for speaking on his experience. Jansen previously shared that he underwent talk therapy to unload some of the "mental weight” of the demands of the big leagues. He also meditates to stay grounded and keep his health in check.

Jonathan Papelbon has called for a mental health-specific IL for players. The former closer attested that every player goes through stretches of poor mental health because being a professional athlete involves so many sacrifices, like the ones Cora detailed in his story, and beyond.

A 162-game season is an incredibly strenuous physical demand from players, but they also have their lives broadcasted for fan enjoyment. Athletes' successes and failures are public and their accomplishments on the field (or lack thereof) dominate their lives — it's the life they signed up for, but having eyes on them at all times has to be daunting and draining.

Martin is happy with the strides he's made in the short time he's been on the IL. He and other athletes struggling with any mental health conditions should be given the grace to recover at their own pace, and in peace.

There is still work to be done, but MLB is on its way to acceptance. Players like Martin, Duran and Jansen and even an older managerial figure like Cora can serve as a blueprint for others to speak up about their mental health, and to show that those struggling are not alone.

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