Across the world, there are millions of student athletes playing college sports from division one to junior college. No matter the level, being a student athlete comes with mental and physical struggles.
Since March, five NCAA student athletes have died due to suicide: Sarah Shulze, Katie Meyer, Jayden Hill, Robert Martin, and Lauren Bernett. Each of these successful student athletes lost their life battling mental health struggles.
As a student athlete, I experience the same gruesome schedule other athletes go through every day. Balancing school, 20+ hour practice weeks, meetings, traveling, contests, multiple jobs, and social life leaves you exhausted with almost no time to take care of yourself mentally. The rigorous duties of a student athlete are very challenging, causing many of us to face mental health issues.
Universities typically offer student athletes a sports psychologist or counselor as a resource they can talk to; however, this can be viewed as a weakness to certain athletes and coaches. The collegiate athletics environment must normalize providing mental wellness support for all student athletes.
Student athletes deserve to know that it is okay to not be okay. The mental health of a student athlete should be held to the same level of importance as physical health. To perform at the highest level in a sport, both an athlete’s mental and physical health must be in form.
I believe every college sports program should provide a team of counselors, therapists, and social workers who talk with every student athlete about mental wellness. Even if a student athlete does not show signs of mental illness, they still have a resource to approach to prevent future mental struggles from appearing.
In addition, college athletic programs should host mental health seminars to increase awareness of mental health issues among students and coaches. Gaining knowledge on mental health will allow student athletes to check in on their teammates and find useful ways to help each other.
Overall, I think more needs to be done to help student athletes with mental health issues. Colleges and universities around the world should come together to provide a strong mental wellness system to better the lives of their athletes. Together, we can make a difference.
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