Social Series highlights the importance of mental health resources and education

The NCAA recently released updated research on the well-being of student-athletes that illustrates some of their mental health issues. To talk about what this means for college sports, the NCAA Social Series hosted a conversation on the topic with NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline; Robin Scholefield, director of culture, wellness and sports psychology at Southern California; and Prim Siripipat, host of “The Next Chapter” podcast and former tennis player at Duke.

“I think the NCAA has done a great job of breaking down those barriers within sports administration,” Scholefield said. “But we’re about to have to figure out how to integrate that more by looking at the environments in which our student-athletes exist and treating them in a more environmentally friendly way.”

The NCAA has developed several educational resources, including “Best Practices in Mental Health: Understanding and Supporting Student-Athlete Mental Well-Being.” The resource was designed with input from a diverse group of members and industry voices to help schools support and meet the mental health needs of their student-athletes. However, the recent survey indicates that schools can improve the way they communicate about mental health resources.

“Even though many mental health resources are available at member schools, there are still student-athletes who are unaware of these resources,” Hainline said. “It tells us that member schools can do a better job of letting athletes know, ‘Listen, this is what we’re doing to foster an environment that de-stigmatizes seeking mental health care and improves overall mental well-being. . “”

Recently released data indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play a major role in the mental well-being of student-athletes. Rates of mental exhaustion, anxiety and depression have changed little since fall 2020 and remain 1.5 to twice as high as before the pandemic.

“Student-athletes are so goal-oriented, and they have this structure, this somewhat protective structure…that structure has been taken away,” Hainline said. “As a society, we see that COVID has had a dramatic impact on the mental and physical health and well-being of our society as a whole, but there is no doubt that it has also had a negative impact on our student-athletes.

“It was hitting everyone at every level because we had to create a new normal,” Siripipat said. “When you talk about the student-athlete population, when your goal, and for a lot of them, is sports, and when your outlet and when your vehicle and your social support and your identity is completely taken away, it i.e. through sports, it makes perfect sense to understand why this house completely crumbled.Sports is often the foundation that holds many of these athletes together.

NCAA law requires member schools to make mental health education materials, services, and resources available to their student-athletes throughout the year. These should be in line with the best practice document.

Other resources developed by the NCAA include the final report of the NCAA Diverse Student-Athlete Mental Health and Well-Being Summit (an event that brought together industry experts and stakeholders to discuss specific challenges in mental health issues faced by student-athletes of color and possible avenues to address these issues); a mental health workshop planning toolkit; and interactive modules for student-athletes, coaches and administrators.

Following the Diverse Student-Athlete Mental Health and Wellness Summit, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports appointed a Mental Health Advisory Group to recommend updates existing NCAA mental health documents. The group includes member representatives, student-athletes and industry experts.

For more on student-athlete mental health, check out the latest NCAA Social Series on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud.