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We Can Do More... Combatting The Female College Athlete Mental Health Crisis

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

Just earlier this month, Women's Health Magazine published an article detailing the mental health epidemic currently plaguing the female collegiate athlete community. This article explores the driving factors of this crisis, why these challenges exist today and how we can better support these high-performing athletes.

Key Takeaways

Female Athletes may be at a Greater Risk for Mental Health Challenges Related to Sports

  • 70% of student-athletes said they’re experiencing mental health issues (July 2022 survey)

  • A recent NCAA survey found that 38% of women reported feeling mentally exhausted constantly compared with 22% of men

  • 65% of athletes have experienced at least one of 18 indicators of psychological harm or neglect, usually by their coaches

  • The pandemic exacerbated social isolation + evolving NIL rules have placed added pressure and stress

Student-Athletes are Seeking Better Solutions

  • Less than half of the female athletes agreed or strongly agreed that mental health was a priority of their athletic department

  • Less than half said they felt comfortable seeking support from a mental health provider on campus

Why this Problem is Hard to Solve

  • Stigma - "Many students feel shame in asking for help. That sense is often even greater for teens who play sports, and have repeatedly been praised for stoicism and an ability to endure both physical and emotional pain"

  • Counseling Centers are already at capacity - Even before the pandemic, most centers had up to 3-week waitlists for students seeking care and the shortage of mental health professionals is making it increasingly hard to find staff.

  • 1 counselor for athletes is not enough - “A lot of programs are just checking a box and it’s one person who can’t take care of that many people. There are limited resources and athletes often find providers lack a true understanding of their challenges if the provider was not a competitive collegiate athlete themselves."

Helpful Solutions

  • "Framing counseling as a way to improve sport performance, build confidence, promote enjoyment and resilience, and achieve future goals, as opposed to a service only for those with mental health concerns, is one way to make athletes more open to talking to a professional."

  • "For schools struggling to hire more mental health care staff, Dr. Hainline (NCAA Chief Medical Officer) suggests they partner with therapists in their communities to help their athletes (though the nationwide shortage in care could make this option difficult in many places)."

  • Education and training on mental health for coaches and trainers

  • Normalizing mental health conversations amongst athletes

Thank you Women's Health for drawing attention to student-athlete related health. You can find the full article here.



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