One of the biggest obstacles student-athletes face is knowing when and how to receive help. A lot of students find difficulty even wanting to look for help since mental illnesses are so looked down upon by society. Sports programs don’t make it easy for their athletes to seek help, they don’t usually provide many resources very openly making it unknown to the students that need it that help is available.
It’s difficult to speak up about mental health. It’s difficult to share personal stories and accounts. Not a lot of people are comfortable with sharing such a personal experience to the point that mental illness and wellness is almost never talked about by society. It’s important to get these first-hand accounts in order to get a better understanding of what it’s like to try and cope from day to day. Mental illness is invisible, most people don’t recognize the symptoms and are forced to live a life with their illness without even knowing it is there and thinking that all people experience what they are experiencing.
Applying this to student-athletes, mental illness is not only invisible but becomes something unacceptable. Dealing with school and the rigorous demands of a sport as well as regular outside influences is already difficult, and becomes even more so when a mental illness is added. Doctors bills, finding a therapist, medications, and more add on to daily stressors. Student-athletes don’t take care of themselves mentally in order to make the time and energy for their sports and school, which only leads to the worsening of the mental illness to the point where it impacts their daily life and normal activities.
A sports environment also makes it difficult to seek help, the constraints of perfection with the expectations to be at every practice and every game without breaks or rest can push a person to never seek help. Medicine changes can result in a missed practice or game or can simply allow one to not be able to perform their best. Therapy and doctors appointments can get in the way and can lead a person to opt out of them. Bad mental health days can lead to bad performance or skipped days.
Mental illness is not easy to talk about, and it gets harder for student-athletes. With such a stigma placed around it by society already, the stigma implied by a sports environment makes that original stigma even more prevalent. It’s important that school sports programs make mental health help easy, known, and available to students. Changing the environment surrounding sports would also help take the first steps to solve this issue, removing the ideals of perfection and high expectations.