Mental health is an integral part of everyone’s life and character, and its awareness has become more prevalent in the world today. Our mental health helps us make sound decisions, handle stress, and communicate with others effectively. However, many Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, and they can manage symptoms with certain medicine, therapy, and exercise/movement. Although student-athletes have the constant advantage of physical activity, they are among those who struggle the most with mental health issues. College athletes (and all student-athletes in general) are challenged to perform at their best while doing their sport and continuing their studies in the classroom and also to incorporate some sort of social life in between school and athletics. Especially at the collegiate level, many athletes struggle to maintain good mental health, and many organizations and individuals have fought to break the stigma around this crisis and have continued to find ways to support student athletes’ wellness.

    Those who play a sport have the same everyday stressors as the general non-athlete population but with added pressures and expectations of practices, competitions, and their education. At the NCAA level, 10% to 15% of athletes (which is 2% more than non-athletes) suffer from mental health issues in which therapy is needed (Hansen). Athletes are extremely prone to poor mental health for a myriad of reasons. They may have some trouble with physical pain and afflictions. The huge commitment to their sport from a young age also places some under a lot of pressure. When it comes to their education, their academic standards are elevated, as they are expected to commit lots of time to their athletics while holding the same expectations in school as their non-athlete counterparts. This invisible injury tends to affect athletic performance, and it is easily overlooked. Life’s stresses and the pressures of outstanding athletic and academic performance are burdens extremely difficult to balance with good mental health conditions, and it is important that everyone receive the help they need to perform at their best.

 There is deep stigma around speaking out about mental health, but many are working to form support systems to bring awareness to this topic and provide aid for those who are struggling. According to research done by the NCAA, “student-athletes who have mental health concerns may be even more reluctant than a non-athlete student to seek help” (“HELPING”). The NCAA, which is the governing body for most collegiate level sports, is one of the many organizations that is dedicated to promoting the well-being and successes of student-athletes at the college level. The NCAA, in collaboration with other organizations, is working to educate the public on this issue and normalize talking about mental health. This organization has in-depth strategies for communicating with athletes and staff and explains the effects of mental illness, but one can take the first step in coming forward about their mental health by simply identifying sources of stress and symptoms and setting aside time for themselves. Then, once more comfortable, they can reach out to a trusted individual and explain how they are truly feeling. It is imperative that anyone who is struggling has the assistance they need to overcome any problems and must know that they are not alone in this fight against mental illness. 

A lot of student-athletes find it difficult to keep up their mental health, and many people are working to aid athletes in their challenges while breaking the stigma usually formed around it. Good mental health conditions are key to achieving success, however, the many athletic and academic stresses may make it difficult to accomplish. Through organizations such as the NCAA or just by reaching out to friends and family, one can find ways to manage life’s pressures. Mental health is something that affects everyone, not just athletes. Anyone struggling with their mental health needs to know that they are supported and loved and someone is always willing to take a moment to sit down and listen. This public health issue, however silent it may be, should not be overlooked and should be treated like any visible ailment. 

Works Cited 

“HELPING SUPPORT STUDENT-ATHLETE MENTAL HEALTH: A Primer for Campus Stakeholders Outside of Athletics.” NCAA, www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Mental%20Health%20Information%20stakeholder%20primer.pdf

Hansen, Liliana, AthleteNetwork. “The Prevalence of Mental Health in Student-Athletes.” Athlete Network, athletenetwork.com/blog/the-prevalence-of-mental-health-in-student-athletes.

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September 6, 2022 12:51 am

Dear Jessica,

I am impressed with your post about “The Mental Health of Student-Athletes” because Mental health is a crucial topic and is not discussed much. Mental health is a terrifying thing and I feel like athletes’ mental health doesn’t get really acknowledged as much as it should be.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is “Mental Health is something that affects everyone, not just athletes”. I think this is very true but no one really takes athletes’ mental health seriously just because they are athletes and should be used to things being difficult. I know many athletes that struggle with different types of mental health issues due to the sport they play including myself and I just feel like we don’t get acknowledged because we are expected to be strong. In any sport that you do, there is failure which plays a big role in mental health problems as well. 

Thank you for writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because it is very interesting and very passionate so I’m looking forward to hearing more from you.

Anahi

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October 19, 2021 6:31 pm

I really think that you did a very good job putting this blog together. As a whole it flowed very well together as you were bringing up both statistics as well as solutions to this problem in our society. This is a topic that is very important to learn about and read that anyone involved in a sport at any level isn’t alone with dealing with mental health. Something that I would think could help even better this post is mentioning what specific organizations are assisting the NCAA in providing student athletes with continued support in their mental health. Reiterating what I said in the beginning I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this piece and do agree that it is an important issue to continue addressing.

January 5, 2021 10:28 pm

I really think you did a great job on this piece. I love reading things about student athletes because I am one. I think the problem is people just see the product of what they do on the field or court but don’t realize they might be having problems off the field. I also thought it was pretty interesting how you said 10 to 15 percent of student athletes suffer from various mental illnesses. I think the solution to this is being more open to their problems as coaches.

January 5, 2021 4:03 pm

I totally agree with this post about mental health. I agree with this post because I can relate to it. I play basketball for my high school team and all the workouts and practices and games can cause stress for me when it comes to managing my time with school work. Also, it can sometimes cause me to not perform at my best during the school day. I really like how you mentioned how young kids are being pressured as they are developing. Lastly, I think we need to come up with new sources to help these young student-athletes with mental health and managing their time better while playing sports.

Julia
January 5, 2021 2:58 pm

Thank you for bringing up many great points! I really like how you emphasized the pressures placed on young kids when they are still developing. I think another thing to think about would be the ides of body ideals and body image of student athletes. There is often a very specific body “standard” that is placed on young athletes. I think this can be very damaging to young athletes because it prioritizes looks over performance, and can often lead to eating disorders. Overall, we need much better resources and outreach opportunities for young people struggling with mental health.

Kenny
December 23, 2020 2:21 am

Dear Jessica,
I am in agreement with your post because student athletes have a lot of pressure put on them.We are force to keep up with our work and perform at our best which is unfair to our mental health. We have to keep up with 2 things at once.
One thing you said that stands out for me is: “ Those who play a sport have the same everyday stressors as the general non-athlete population but with added pressures and expectations of practices, competitions, and their education.” I think this is sad because we are forced to keep up with 2 things at once and be perfect at both. It’s harder for students athletes then it os for normal students.
Your post reminds me of something that happened to me. One time I was going to play a basket ball game at another school. Then my teacher didn’t let me go because of my grades.It was because of math that was really difficult for me and i always asked for help. They have no empathy for student athletes.
Thanks for your post. I look forward to seeing what you write next because this is very informative for non-athletes on our struggles as athletes.Also teachers need to understand and read this.

December 17, 2020 8:59 am

I really enjoyed reading your writing “The Mental Health of Student-Athletes” because it was very informative. I agree that student-athletes do have to handle a lot of stress due to having to balance academics and their sport at the same time. A sentence that stood out to me was “Although student-athletes have the constant advantage of physical activity, they are among those who struggle the most with mental health issues.” This is because you previously stated that common ways to manage stress and mental illnesses are exercise and movement. So, student-athletes being amongst the most stressed is not very surprising to me because they undergo a lot of pressure to keep up with their sport and school. Thank you for sharing this information and I look forward to reading more of your writing.

Thano Prokos
December 16, 2020 2:29 am

Well-researched, Jess!

You’re doing important work by giving voice to mental health issues within the athletic community because of societal stigmas which tend to divorce the athlete from matters of the brain.

I’m particularly interested in some of the measures the NCAA is taking to address mental health. What kinds of practices are being used? Do any techniques seem particularly effective, and what can we take from the answers to those questions when examining high school, junior high, and elementary athletic programs so that a solid support system is in place to serve student-athletes across the board.

This might be a cool topic for a follow-up blog! Nice job!

December 14, 2020 5:24 pm

I really enjoyed reading this I like how you describe mental health and what it does and how important it is to someone. The stat 10 to 15 percent of athletes at the college level suffer through this mental health issue surprises me. The number of college athletes is big across the nation so that percentage is pretty high. I like how you give advice about this and it really helped me and change the way I think also. I also like how you mention that stress in an athlete is a big thing and should be calling for help if you need it.

December 12, 2020 10:19 pm

I enjoyed reading your writing “The Mental Health of Student-Athletes” because I agree that being a student-athlete is really pressuring and stressful. Student-athletes are expected to be the best, have good grades, and have a social life when they barely have time for themselves. One sentence that you wrote that stood out to me was “Life’s stresses and the pressures of outstanding athletic and academic performance are burdened extremely difficult to balance with good mental health conditions, and it is important that everyone receive the help they need to perform at their best.” I think this is true because most student-athletes have trouble finding a balance in their life. They need support and motivation because at times they feel like giving up. Thanks for your writing. I look forward to what you write next.

December 11, 2020 11:17 am

Jess,

Thank you for a great read! It was fascinating but also saddening to read about the prevalence of mental health issues that student athletes face. They must be under immense pressure from having to juggle school, sports, family/social life, and also work. Often times, physical pain is the first thought that comes to mind regarding athletes; however, your post reminds us all that sports is a mental game as well. I appreciated how you mentioned ways for athletes to seek assistance if they are struggling, as it further breaks down the stigma behind mental health issues. Also, in your conclusion, I find it commendable that you reminded readers how mental health affects everyone. Thanks for a fantastic post! I look forward to your posts in the future!

December 11, 2020 1:44 am

Jess, I really enjoyed reading this and I especially loved your perspective on this issue as a student athlete who understands the struggles firsthand. I was shocked at one of the stats you mentioned, the fact that “ 10% to 15% of athletes” at the collegiate level suffer from severe mental health issues. Given the sheer number of college athletes, this number is unfathomable to me and it doesn’t even account for those with mental health issues that either go undiagnosed or don’t seek therapy. I love the fact that you brought light to this issue and I hope that you take some of the advice you offered in this piece and apply it to your own experience! Can’t wait to hear more!

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