Hockeyroos goaltender Aleisha Power opens up on the bottom and her journey back to the top
Aleisha Power vividly remembers when her mental health hit rock bottom.
- Aleisha Power sought help with her mental health in 2019
- She is among a growing number of top athletes doing so
- Now she helps mentor teens take care of their own mental health
It was 2019. She was on the fringes of Australia’s ice hockey team, struggling with being overlooked for a spot on the Hockeyroos roster.
And then a perfect storm of events blew her over the edge.
“I had a really tough relationship breakdown,” she said.
“And then I crashed my car. And then when I borrowed my mom’s car, my wallet got stolen from the car and they made a rooster and paid a spree and took a lot of money.
“It just felt like someone dumped a bucket of water on me.
“I just felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore. I thought I needed help.”
Individually, those events may not seem disastrous, but years followed for Power, in which she had relentlessly pursued a spot in the Hockey Roos after making her debut in 2017.
“[I thought] I made it now, I played for the Hockeyroos. And I really want to be in the squad,” she said.
“But then it’s like ‘nah, nah, nah’. And you can’t really commit to a full-time job or a career because you’re like, ‘What if I can make it and play for the Hockeyroos?’
“Then you’re in this mindset like, well, why am I committing to this? I don’t know if I’ll ever make it.
“I felt like my life hadn’t moved in about three years.”
The repeated rejection, cascade of external events, and unacknowledged poor mental health caused Power to experience periods of manic motivation and deep breakdowns.
“I’ll do anything, I’ll be that, so I’ll work my ass off to then say I can’t function as a human, I cry all the time. I put it on. I don’t want to leave my house,” she said.
Realizing she needed help, Power turned to psychologists at the Western Australian Institute of Sport.
It took her 18 months to feel like herself again, which coincided with her return to the Hockeyroos team and eventually the roster.
From Northam to the world stage
Power grew up playing a variety of sports in Northam, 100km north-east of Perth.
She moved to Perth as a teenager and went to boarding school while playing hockey.
At 16 she was selected for the Australian junior class and eventually worked her way up to the Hockeyroos.
“The hardest part was actually breaking through the Hockeyroos squad as a goalkeeper. It’s a pretty competitive position,” she said.
“It took me four years from my debut to grind myself out to finally get into my squad and it was like finally having a foot in the door to a career playing for Australia.”
Since returning to the Hockeyroos roster, Power has won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the World Championships.
But she’s also taking on another challenge, becoming an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Mental Fitness Ambassador.
A partnership between the AIS and the Black Dog Institute, it enables current and former elite athletes to speak to high school students about mental health.
Power is one of 22 ambassadors alongside boxer Caitlin Parker and swimmer Mitch Larkin.
“I just remember in high school I felt a lot of pressure to be something, like you have to be something and choose a career,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s like, ‘Do you take care of yourself? Can you be a good person?’ gave.
“I feel like [school was] miss the human side of school children.
“If you don’t take care of yourself and know your worth and have a sound mind, you’re not going to be successful in whatever you choose to do anyway.”
More athletes seeking help
Performance is not an anomaly when it comes to elite athletes seeking help as the revealing AIS numbers have more than doubled in four years.
“In 2019, around 200 referrals probably came through the Mental Health Referral Network (MHRN). And in 2022, we saw about 550 referrals,” said AIS clinical psychologist Nicole Burattin.
“I think we’re seeing a number of different factors that could be contributing to this increase in people accessing mental health support.
“We know people are becoming more interested in services like the Mental Health Referral Network and that it is a positive service that people are likely to recommend to others.
“I also think that the stigma around mental health is diminishing as well.”
The MHRN is a program where athletes can seek mental health support, either through self-referral or through family, friends, and coaches.
Ms Burattin said early intervention was important.
“The sooner we can identify that someone is struggling with poor mental health, the faster we intervene, the better the outcome for that person,” she said.
“We can relate that to the idea of tooth decay. So if we have a cavity in our tooth, the quicker we go to the dentist and have it filled, the better the outcome.
“Mental health is really quite similar. The faster we recognize that someone or we ourselves are struggling, the faster we can get support, the better the outcome for that person and their mental health.”
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-08/aleisha-power-hockeyroos-mental-health-battle/101978890 Hockeyroos goaltender Aleisha Power opens up on the bottom and her journey back to the top