Student-athletes are a unique breed. They are very driven, and are often resilient, high-achieving, and competitive. They’ve often spent their young lives overcoming challenges and striving for success to the extent that it becomes part of their identity. The same qualities that have helped them succeed, though, can be a barrier when it comes to asking for and getting help. While student-athletes suffer from mental illness at about the same rate as that of the general student population, they seek help at a much lower rate. Of college students suffering from a mental illness, 1 in 3 will seek professional help, which is too low. In the student-athlete population, however, that statistic drops to 1 in 10.
When they have a physical injury, most student-athletes want to have it examined and treated by the medical staff so they can get back to competing. There is no stigma against tearing your ACL. There is usually disappointment, and an understanding that hard work and a rehab process – guided by professionals – lies ahead. There is also a hope that one can eventually return to their sport, often better than ever. Recovering from mental illness need not be any different, if we can follow a similar protocol, without judgment. If we can look at mental health concerns objectively — as common, human health issues that can be treated and managed – perhaps more student-athletes would access the care that can be so beneficial to their overall health, well-being, and quality of life.
This portion of the site is designed to assist you in helping someone you care about who is struggling with a mental health issue. Hopefully it will help you understand the student-athlete’s perspective, signs and symptoms of mental health issues, barriers to help-seeking, (including stigma), and provide helpful talking points. Ultimately, individuals who are suffering from mental health conditions need to know that they are not alone, and that help is available.