Mental health problems remain in the minds of student athletes

As a follow-up to two NCAA student and athlete welfare surveys conducted in 2020, student athletes continue to report increased levels of mental health concern.

The data show that the levels of mental exhaustion, anxiety and depression have changed little since the fall of 2020 and remain 1.5 to two times higher than those established before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, student-athletes report lower levels of hopelessness in the fall of 2021 than in the first year of the pandemic.

The survey across the association, which was open from November 17 to December. 13, there were responses from over 9800 student-athletes. It was designed by NCAA Research in collaboration with the NCAA Institute of Sports Science and Division I, II, and III Student Advisory Committees.

This study does not measure the reactions of student-athletes to the general population of college students, which also deals with these mental health problems.

When asked about mental health support, 69% of women’s sports and 63% of men’s sports agreed or strongly agreed that they knew where to go on campus if they had mental health problems.

According to the NCAA Constitution, each member school is committed to facilitating an environment that enhances physical and mental health in athletics by providing access to appropriate resources and open commitment to physical and mental health.

But when asked if they would be comfortable seeking support from a mental health provider on campus, less than half of women’s and men’s sports participants said they would agree or completely agree with the statement (48% and 46% respectively). ).

Continuing your outreach efforts on campus is one way to try to change the connection between knowing where to go if you have a mental health problem and feeling comfortable seeking that help.

“A lot of what influences the direction of this topic is what kind of conversations take place on campus about mental health,” said Scott Hamilton, clinical counselor for mental health at DePauw. “Are there groups on campus, whether through the athletics department or through consulting services that use their voice to help reduce stigma?”

Hamilton is also the mental health coordinator for students and athletes at DePauw. In this role, Hamilton witnessed first-hand how student attitudes can change.

He said it was fascinating to conduct mindfulness training or team flexibility training.

“Within a week or two, you’re starting to see some celebrities show up at the counseling center,” said Hamilton, who has worked at DePauw for 12 years. “When university campuses are ready to have candid conversations about the importance of mental health, taking care of yourself mentally can ease the detention of student-athletes seeking help.

The Institute of Sports Science provides health and safety resources to college athletes, coaches, athletics administrators, and campus partners. Mental health education resources include a review of best practices, data and research, and summits and working groups.

The study included a question about teammates who take each other’s mental health concerns seriously. Sixty-five percent of women’s sports and 58 percent of men’s sports agree or strongly agree that they did. In this regard, 56% of participants in sports for both men and women report that they know how to help a teammate who has a mental health problem.

When asked if they think their mental health is a priority for their athletics department, 55% of men’s athletes and 47% of women’s athletes agree or disagree.

When asked whether their coaches take their mental health concerns seriously, 59% of men’s sports participants agree or completely agree, and 50% of women’s sports participants have done so.

Mental health concerns during the pandemic

Mental health concerns remain highest among demographic subgroups of student-athletes who tend to show higher levels of mental distress (women, colored student-athletes, those identifying in the queer spectrum, and those reporting family economic difficulties). .

This study, along with the previous two surveys, asked participants if they felt mentally exhausted, had difficulty sleeping, felt overwhelmed, worried, sad, lost, or hopeless.

The highest percentage of reductions is observed among respondents engaged in sports for women, in terms of feeling very lonely or hopeless.

Sixteen percent of women’s sports participants said they felt very lonely all the time or almost every day, down from 5 percentage points in the autumn 2020 survey. Ten percent of respondents to women who play sports said they feel that things are hopeless, compared to 16% who responded in this way in the previous survey.

Thirty-eight percent of those in women’s sports and 22 percent of those in men’s sports report feeling mentally exhausted constantly or mostly every day, according to the most common anxiety.

Academic experience

Athlete students expressed more optimism about their ability to cope and complete their courses in the fall of 2021 than in the spring and fall of 2020.

Half of the student-athletes were satisfied with their ability to find a balance between academic and extracurricular activities, including athletics. The self-reported balance is higher among male athletes (56%) than female athletes (47%).

Factors related to the transfer

As the Division I governance structure changed the rules for one-time transfer exceptions to include baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey before the 2021-22 school year, transfers became a hot topic for the media and fans. .

Eight percent of all student-athletes surveyed said they were likely to transfer at some point in the 2021-22 school year.

Mental health (61% of women in sports, 40% of men in sports), conflict with a coach or teammates (56% of women in sports, 34% of men in sports) and play time (34% of participants) in women’s sports, 36% of men’s sports) were the most cited reasons for considering transfers, among those considering doing so at some point in the year.

Race and gender equality

Athlete students continue to volunteer in their communities, participate in social and civic activities, and learn more about injustice on their own.

Eighty-four percent of female sports respondents and 78% of male sports respondents said they volunteered occasionally or frequently. Two-thirds of men and women say they occasionally or often discuss politics.

In terms of commitment to racial justice over the past six months, 81% of women athletes and 73% of men athletes have taken an active role in learning more about race or racial justice alone. More than 60 percent of both women and men said they had conversations with teammates focused on race or racial justice.

In advocating for gender equality, 72% of female athletes and 56% of male athletes report that they are actively trying to learn more about gender equality on their own. Fifty-eight percent of women and 46 percent of men have occasionally or frequently interviewed teammates focused on gender equality.

Educational resources

Athlete students are more likely to show a desire for educational resources in tax and financial literacy; career planning; navigation in the possibilities for name, image and similarity; and professional opportunities in sports.

Fifty percent of women’s sports and 49 percent of men’s sports wanted more resources for tax literacy and education.

In terms of navigating NIL opportunities, 42% of men’s sports and 39% of women’s sports said they wanted more educational resources.

Forty-one percent of men’s sports participants and 35% of women’s sports respondents wanted resources on professional opportunities in their sport.

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