Four college athletes (all women) died by suicide in the first 5 months of 2022. Their families and teammates were shocked. From the outside, their life seemed perfect. From the inside, it was a different story.
In a recent NCAA survey, 30% of women and 25% of men reported having anxiety. 25% of the athletes reported experiencing depression, burnout, or disordered eating.
Only 10% of those athletes struggling with mental illnesses were getting help from a mental health professional. There is a big stigma with getting mental health help. These statistics put an even greater importance on mental health resources and education.
Here are 3 things a sports program can do for their student athletes’ mental health…
1. Provide Mental Health Training.In a sports program, hours and hours are dedicated each week to physical training. It’s time to add in mental health training as well. Here are a couple examples of current mental health training organizations…
Thru The Game is a great organization that provides mental health training for athletes, coaches and parents.
Morgan’s Story is inspired by Morgan who played lacrosse at Duke University who died by suicide. This is an organization that is structured around an ambassador program. This is for athletes who are interested in becoming active advocates for mental health on their campuses or sports programs.
2. Have Designated Advocates For Each Athlete.
Katie Meyers was one of the athletes who died by suicide last February. She was the captain of the Stanford soccer team. Katie’s Save has a mission to implement a policy where students can choose a trusted adult as their “Designated Advocate”. This person would be notified if the athlete is struggling with academics, athletics, etc..
This promotes the safety of students and helps them feel less isolated when they are struggling. This doesn’t just have to be at the collegiate level, but it can be implemented into travel programs, high school teams, etc..
Here is a link to the consent form that they have created for you to use for your program…
3. Hire A Sports Psychologist.
Athletic programs hire physical therapists and trainers for physical health injuries. Hiring a Sports Psychologist would be very beneficial for mental health struggles or illnesses. For a university, college, or high school this psychologist could be on campus. For a travel program or on a smaller scale, this could be connecting with a local Sports Psychologist. Ask if they could come in to talk to coaches, parents, and athletes. This would help lessen the stigma of asking for help and also be a great tangible resource.
There are many other things that can be done to help improve the mental health of student athletes, but this is a good start. Here at Let’s Play 4 U, we see each athlete as a human. They are more than their batting average, ERA, GPA etc.. They are a human who deserves to be seen as much more than just the athlete and student that they are. We hope this post encourages programs to implement something that would greatly benefit the mental health of their athletes.
Provided below are more resources for mental health services…
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention