Helping the Hive

Shining a Light on Mental Health

Cassidy Morrison

I have played sports all my life and although there are lots of fun times, there are also many stressful moments. As you get older there are a lot more stress factors than just going out and playing the game. In high school, I decided that I wanted to play field hockey in college. I was so glad to be able to continue the sport I love but was also aware of the struggles that come with being a student-athlete.

As a collegiate athlete, I have experienced the fatigue and stress a sport can put on you. I have had moments where there were other things going on in my life and the stress of sports made it so much harder. Throughout my years of playing sports, I have seen teammates and friends on other teams struggle with their mental health. One of my friends was severely struggling with depression while playing soccer for her school, but no one would have guessed that. As her season went on, she eventually broke down and told me about it all. It was heartbreaking to hear what she was experiencing and the pain in her voice. She eventually decided that she needed to stop playing soccer, which was a hard decision for her, but I was proud of her for speaking up and doing what was best for her mental health. It’s hard to see student athletes, especially close friends, struggling and not getting the help they need from their coaches or school.

Mental health in collegiate athletes is not focused on enough and athletes are discouraged from reaching out for help. There is a stigma surrounding “mental toughness” which teaches athletes to avoid sharing any mental health struggles. Athletes are taught from a young age to be tough while playing their sport. Male sports are focused on the stigma of “mental toughness”, and it really discourages the athletes to reach out for help. Instead, athletes try to push through, but they can’t do that every time.

Eventually athletes reach a point where they need someone they can talk to and get help from. Student-athletes not only have the pressure of maintaining their schoolwork and grades, but also working their schoolwork around practices and games. Mental health concerns among student athletes are 150% to 250% higher than years past. Only 10% of college athletes dealing with mental health issues seek help. A mental health crisis could show as stress, eating disorders, burnout, depression, or anxiety. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among student-athletes. At most universities, there is poor screening to evaluate athletes and there isn’t the awareness among staff members.

In order to help athletes and encourage them to reach out for help, athletic trainers, athletic directors, coaches, and players all need to be educated on signs of depression and other mental illnesses. When people notice these symptoms, they need to report them. The athletic department needs to take the appropriate actions whether it’s having counselors on hand, preferably former student athletes, or having someone trusted to speak to in a professional, helpful way.

The first step an athlete can take to receive help is to reach out to a coach or teammate who they feel comfortable with. A website was created to bring attention to mental illness and empower those suffering in silence to speak up. It was created to honor Morgan Rodgers, a lacrosse player from Duke who struggled with her mental health and eventually took her own life. The organization is called Morgan’s Message. They have been successful with building a community for athletes, a wonderful platform for advocacy, and they have launched their organization on campuses and many communities.

There should be no shame in an athlete seeking help for their mental health. We need to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. The mental health of athletes needs to be talked about more and normalized just as it has among public safety professionals in recent years. 

In order to help bring awareness to this issue, I plan on creating virtual flyers that provide a brief summary about the current state of mental health in athletes, the resources they can use, and how people can help others. It will be easy to spread awareness through social media with the flyer because it only takes a few seconds to repost it and lots of people will see it at some point.

I found out about Morgan’s Message through Instagram when someone reposted one of their posts. It is very easy to access the website and Instagram of Morgan’s Message. You can repost to help spread awareness. The link to their website is as follows https://morgansmessage.org/who-we-are.

It explains why they started the organization and there is also a spot to donate to their cause under the tab “Take Action”. Their Instagram is “@morgansmessage” where they talk about how you can become an ambassador and they also have a segment on Spotify and Apple where they talk about mental health with other athletes. You can easily apply to become an ambassador on their website. Being an ambassador for them involves spreading Morgan’s Message in your community by holding educational workshops, activities, and fundraisers. Do your part and help put an end to the mental health struggles of our student athletes. After all, the joy and excitement they bring to us, their fans, family, and friends, could easily be repaid tenfold by asking one simple question, “Are you doing ok?”

Counseling Center at SU:

counseling@su.edu 540-665-4530 Cooley Hall Rooms 301-307

Categories: Helping the Hive

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