A-10 introduces a mental health video series for student athletes – The GW Hatchet
The Atlantic 10 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee launched a series of mental health discussions this month to advance ongoing national conversations about the impact of mental health on student-athletes.
The committee, in which student-athletes work alongside administration, coaches and NCAA officials, will publish the nine-part Mental Health Series throughout the month, in which student-athletes interview mental health professionals about ways they are fighting against mental health issues such as depression and Anxiety can prevail and stigma surrounds the issues. The initiative comes as recent suicides coupled with stress overload and burnout have raised mental health concerns among student athletes across the country.
Several NCAA athletic students committed suicide this spring — Stanford football captain Katie Meyer, Wisconsin track and field athlete Sara Schultze and James Madison softball player Lauren Bernett — but the NCAA has yet to respond.
The committee launched the initiative to help student-athletes understand the impact of mental health on their well-being and to promote psychological resources in the league. The conversations in the videos encourage student-athletes to start open discussions about mental health while fostering a supportive environment.
“Because the mental health crisis is very real and widespread among student athletes, A-10 SAAC wanted to provide resources to student athletes throughout the conference,” said Cody Shimp, the committee president, in the press release. “Created in collaboration with Atlantic 10 athletic students, psychologists and former athletes, this mental health video series aims to answer questions about mental health. It’s important to communicate that everyone faces obstacles and those obstacles don’t have to be experienced.”
The NCAA compiled a publication called Mental Health Best Practices in 2016 to recommend colleges’ resources for student-athletes and in 2020 a Student-Athlete Well-Being Scale that surveys and tests the mental health of student-athletes.
Student-athletes at GW said in the fall that the pandemic has caused their mental health to deteriorate as they feel removed from the college environment and struggle to find a balance between their academic, athletic and personal lives. They said the athletic department has provided support for their mental health during the pandemic and has encouraged them to meet with mental health professionals and lean on each other for support.
GW Athletics spokesman Brian Sereno said GW connects student athletes with clinical sports physicians and psychologists who provide mental wellbeing consultations, and the athletic department shares information on mental health and stress management through monthly emails from Chris Hennelly – the athletics director for the Health of student-athletes – further , well-being and performance. You can also get support from the counseling and psychological services available to all students through the Colonial Health Center.
Chris Hennelly – the Athletics Director of Student-Athlete Health, Wellbeing and Performance – has spent the past several years speaking to GW coaches about mental health, in addition to providing first aid training to support the health and wellbeing of student-athletes .
Henelly also sends out emails throughout the year with information on resources and tips on mental health topics like suicide prevention and self-care for final exam season. In an email acquired by The Hatchet late last month, Henelly sent a list of six tips student-athletes could follow, like creating a routine, getting more sleep and exercising to “switch off” at the end of the semester .
“The end of the semester can be an overwhelming time, whether you’re studying for final exams, preparing for graduation, or heading home for the summer,” Henelly said in the email. “When we take care of ourselves, we can take care of ourselves and bring ourselves back to center when we’re feeling stressed, thrown, or burned out.”
A Clinical Sports Medicine Specialist visits each exercise program three to four times a year to consult with student-athletes about mental health and dealing with the stress of the season. Sereno said a clinical psychologist visited the university late last month to discuss the transition from college sports, the peak of the school year, and ways to adapt and cope with the end of college through mental wellbeing.
At least half of the schools in the A-10 provide psychiatric service hotlines on their website, and four advertise college psychiatric programs where any student can meet with a psychologist or counselor.
UMass Amherst is the only A-10 member school to offer its own mental health program for student athletes. The program, called “Peak Performance,” provides students and athletes with mental health training to meet the demands of a Division I athlete through stress management and a positive mental attitude, while building quality relationships inside and outside of their sport.
The program offers performance-enhancing services that teach student-athletes how to perform under stress, guide themselves through difficult moments, maintain confidence, regulate emotions, and work with setbacks in one-on-one sessions with a licensed psychologist and a certified mental performance consultant . The program also includes advising coaches, athletic trainers, physicians and support staff on the intersection of mental health and performance.
According to a study by Athletes for Hope, about 33 percent of college students experience significant symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. About 30 percent of people experiencing mental health crises seek help, and only 10 percent say they have adequate resources.
About 35 percent of professional athletes suffer from psychological crises, which manifest themselves in eating disorders, stress, depression, burnout and anxiety.
The NCAA released the results of a league-wide survey of student and athlete mental health last May, showing that one in 10 students reported experiencing depression that interfered with their work “constantly” or “almost every day.” The survey showed that 150 to 250 percent more college students reported mental health problems during the pandemic than previous reports from the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, a nationally recognized research survey that compiles data on the health habits of student-athletes.
Female athletic students reported more depressive symptoms than their male counterparts, according to a 2016 study by the National Library of Medicine.