Changing the mental health game for student-athletes

Molly Melito, Staff Writer

While many high school students participate in sports to make friends, get exercise and have an outlet for their stresses of the real world, thousands of students struggle to find the balance between a healthy relationship with their sports and taking care of their mental health as pressures have increased each year.

With student-athletes trying to keep up with the physical and mental toll their schoolwork and sports takes on them, they become more susceptible to burnout. In today’s climate it is vital to prioritize mental wellbeing. With a lack of sleep from trying to keep up with schoolwork after practicing for more than two hours, students can begin to see the vicious cycle that are common stressors in collegiate athletes. These unique stressors can include a declining GPA, worsened athletic performance and more serious problems like anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Student-athletes are struggling to find a balance between having healthy mindsets and succeeding in school with outside worries about sports and other extracurriculars. One of the best ways to improve mental health is to talk about it. Normalizing discussions about mental health struggles will help others realize they are not alone. Talking about their situation with a coach, counselor, therapist or parent will ensure their safety this sports season, says Heather Doug, PhD, a mental health therapist at the Kaiser Permanente San Leandro Medical Center. At Dulaney, clubs such as NOOW (Not On Our Watch) are working towards increasing available resources to support student-athletes currently struggling with their mental health.

Breaking down the stigma between athletes and mental health is crucial for future generations of students to know they are not alone in feeling the weight of various responsibilities. As sports advance, the demands of student-athletes will too, and creating a safe environment for students to share their struggles will change the mental health game.