The mental health of college athletes has been a growing concern in recent years. In 2022 alone, at least four NCAA student-athletes died by suicide, sparking conversations about the effects of intense competition and high expectations on the psychological well-being of student-athletes. The NCAA has taken steps to address this issue, with an increased focus on bringing mental health services onto campus for student-athletes in need. The organization is also working to remove stigmas associated with seeking help for mental health issues. Additionally, it has begun hosting various workshops and educational programs to teach coaches and administrators how best to assist their players when dealing with depression or other issues related to mental health.
College administrators and coaches can take specific steps to improve mental health services for student-athletes:
Schools should make sure that they are providing adequate access to mental health professionals who specialize in sports-related issues.
Understanding the athletic environment and the unique pressures college athletes face is critical. Schools should also incorporate education into their programs, such as seminars on nutrition and stress management, which can help prevent depression or anxiety from occurring in the first place.
Colleges should provide a safe space where student-athletes feel comfortable discussing any psychological issues they may face without fear of judgment or repercussions.
Mental health professionals, college coaches, leaders of faith (college chaplains), and Christian counselors should be available to student-athletes for mental health evaluations, counseling sessions, and other services. In addition to on-campus support systems, governing bodies such as the NCAA, NJCAA, NAIA, and individual Athletic departments can also provide access to online resources such as websites and forums that offer information and resources related to mental health issues.
Mental health evaluation procedures can include a full assessment of an athlete's psychological state, including any history of substance abuse or eating disorders. Through this evaluation process, it is important to recognize warning signs or potential risk factors associated with mental illnesses to develop personalized treatment plans tailored to each athlete's needs. College staff members should also actively promote awareness around common issues like stress management techniques and understanding how nutrition affects athletic performance on the field/court/track and in their academic studies.
Finally, additional safeguards must be implemented for athletes at higher risk of struggling with substance abuse or co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression. These safeguards might include mandatory drug testing, referral services for off-campus therapy options, peer mentoring programs, anonymous reporting systems if necessary, emergency contact phone numbers accessible from anywhere at any time, etc. The goal here is not only to create a safe environment where student-athletes feel comfortable discussing their concerns but also to provide them with the proper resources they need when necessary so they may continue succeeding athletically while maintaining their physical & emotional well-being.
When writing these articles, I strive to maintain a consistent connection between the Christian perspective and each point made. This time around, however, I wanted to approach this article from a different angle by first looking at mental health issues and the responsibilities of collegiate governing bodies and individual colleges/universities before exploring how Christianity factors into this discussion. Here are three examples of scripture you may find helpful:
Psalm 37:4 states, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." This verse reminds athletes that even when they are overwhelmed by life's pressures, if they put their trust in God – He will provide them with strength and direction.
Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to rely on God for courage and guidance during difficult times: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." This verse helps remind athletes that trusting in God is essential for success on and off the field/court/track.
Matthew 11:28 says: "Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest ." This verse speaks directly to those struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression as it reminds them of Jesus' love & mercy offered during times of need.
If you, as the coach or administrator, have a personal relationship with the student-athlete, you" know when it's appropriate to share your personal beliefs and forge a common comforting connection. Incorporating biblical scripture verses into conversations with student-athletes provides an additional source of comfort & encouragement which can be invaluable during challenging times. With the right combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual support, every athlete will be provided with the necessary tools they need for success both on & off the field/court/track.
In conclusion, student-athletes face unique pressures and demands that make them more prone to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. To this end, it is essential for college campuses to provide a wide range of resources - including mental health professionals, college coaches, and Christian counselors – who are accessible and able to help student-athletes in times of need. In addition to these support systems on campus, governing bodies like the NCAA should also provide access to online resources related to mental health at all levels of competition.