A Study Into Student-Athlete Mental Health Resources

Tim O’Shea – Contributor

In March, Katie Meyer a National Champion goalie and captain for the Stanford University women’s soccer team committed suicide. 

As a student-athlete myself, I could only dream of achieving the heights Katie Meyer had accomplished. This is another tragic story of a student-athlete who seemed to be living the dream, but was obviously battling demons we can’t even fathom.  

This tragedy prompted an idea to take a deeper dive into the NCAA’s strategy for promoting mental health awareness in student-athletes and athletic programs as a whole. Even more so, I wanted to see if Southern Connecticut State University was doing their part to hold up to the standards of the NCAA.  

I wanted an answer to the question, is Southern doing the most for their student-athletes?  

Through the NCAA’s studies, they have outlined a few key components for the best practices in providing mental health support (Stamatis et al., 2020):  

1. Mental Health care should be provided to student-athletes by licenced and qualified professionals only  

2. Inter-collaborations are encouraged for developing plans that focus on early identification and referral of student-athletes in need  

3. Pre-participation screening for a variety of sub-clinical symptoms of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and alcohol use is suggested  

4. Education of all stakeholders towards the development of sport cultures that promote student-athletes’ mental health issues management is recommended  

According to Nick Pinkerton, the Director of Counseling at Southern Connecticut State University, he says that, “Coaches, trainers, and other athletics staff have been provided with some baseline training on how to support student-athletes who are struggling with their mental health,” thus making everyone in the athletic department capable of helping any student-athlete in need of mental health help.  

The NCAA has also been doing its part to help students mentally and physically. In college football, the NCAA’s largest grossing sport, they have made some recent rule changes that are significantly pro-player.  

For instance, since the beginning of modern college football, teams have held two or even three practices in a day. In an attempt to limit repetitive head impact exposure during the football preseason, the NCAA eliminated two-a-day practices in 2017, while maintaining the total number of team practice sessions (Stemper, B.D., Shah, A.S., Harezlak, J. et al., 2019). This shows an effort by the NCAA to not only prevent injury, but creates a healthier environment mentally and physically for college football players. 

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