University athletes with professional ambitions don’t usually come to mind in mental health discussions, but Kieran Eve is opening up about his personal struggles so he can help people see that mental health concerns aren’t limited to a certain type of person.
“It’s always a good message that ‘if someone is going through something mentally, it’s normal,’” the 2019 Archbishop Carney Secondary graduate told The B.C. Catholic.
“There are people out there to help you through it. Don’t just think you need to get through it by yourself. You aren’t weak. It’s important to get the help that you need.”
Eve, who just finished his second year of business at Trinity Western and currently plays for the TWU Spartan soccer team, was recently featured in a Bell Let’s Talk video where he shared his experience with mental illness.
He remembers talking with his father about finding a way to share his mental health experience with others. His father told him that God would give him an opportunity, and the next day Kieran received an email from TWU asking for athletes who wanted to share their experiences with mental illness.
His mental health struggle started during COVID when lockdowns and closures left him socially isolated. He has always cared about training and fitness, but he says social media amplified his insecurities to an unhealthy level.
“Obviously you only see the best of the best on social media,” he said. “Everyone looks glamorous; everyone is saying you need to be doing so much. It puts so much anxiety focusing on what others are doing.”
So much of an athlete’s identity is wrapped up in being an athlete, he said, that “when you see someone doing better than you it can push you to extremes.”
He remembers watching professional athletes on social media and thinking, “Wow, I have a lot of work to do,” when actually it should be “you versus you.”
“I got this idea that I should get ahead in my fitness,” he said. “I started focusing on my diet and it spiralled into an eating disorder.”
He described the experience as an inescapable torment. “I was super focused on calories; I was terrified of getting fat,” he said. “From the moment I woke up all I would think about is what I would eat.”
He eventually opened up to his parents who tried to help him as much as they could. After a series of medical tests they received a phone call saying he needed to go to the hospital as soon as possible. Eve was hospitalized for severe malnutrition and heart complications.
Eve says it was important to get help from a professional who knew his brain better than he did. He was surprised to find that many of his insecurities stemmed from past experiences.
“Even things in your childhood can have long-lasting effects on your life,” he said. “Something that you didn’t think was a big deal can have a long-lasting impact.”
Eve attributes his recovery to a renewed understanding of God’s love and presence in his life. Growing up in a Catholic household, he said his parents always taught the family to put their trust in God. However, it wasn’t until his hospital stay that he truly learned that “God is personally there.”
“He isn’t just this distant far away being that doesn’t care, he is actually there for you,” he said. “For me, the biggest insight was that God is personal – at the end of the day I felt connected to God through my own surrender to him.”