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According to the survey, 92% of NAIA members want psychiatric resources for athletes

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A quick dive:

  • The vast majority of members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics surveyed want to offer mental health services to their college athletes, but do not. That’s it new report from Mantra Health, a virtual mental health startup targeting college students.
  • The NAIA represents small collegiate athletics programs throughout North America. Among respondents, the top five desired resources included mental health training for coaches and directors (90%), workshops on developing coping skills and building resilience (88%), mental health training for students (86%), a sports psychologist (70% ), as well as therapist and office hours (57%).
  • The survey identified four areas of mental health for college athletic departments: staff training, awareness, campus collaboration and dedicated funding.

Dive Insight:

Several student-athletes committed suicide this spring. intensive calls for college and athletics leaders to do more to address mental health issues. The news has increased the conversation around the unique mental health challenges the group faces.

According to Elizabeth Jodoin, a clinical solutions consultant at Mantra Health, these students are juggling multiple expectations that are often more demanding than a full-time job.

“You always hear that they’re students first. But they’re still expected to attend all these practices and games between classes. It’s very difficult,” she said.

Many college athletes choose to hide emotional problems or deteriorating mental health out of concern that their coaches will bench them, Jodoin said. This pressure piles on top of class work and the general stigma surrounding mental health issues.

The NAIA survey, released Monday, surveyed more than 50 members of the association. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents worked in private institutions. The NAIA encompasses 250 colleges with approximately 77,000 athletes.

According to athletic officials who participated in the survey, the top factor affecting a college athlete’s mental health is the balance between academic and athletic responsibilities.

Half of respondents said their teams have access to a 24-hour mental health hotline, and 44% said their teams offer telemedicine services.

Expanding flexible services offered outside of traditional business hours is critical for college athletes, Jodoin said.

“Their schedule is always complicated because they’re going out of town for games. Often the 9-5 campus counseling center doesn’t work for them,” she said.

According to the report, if a college athlete applies for help but has a bad experience or is turned away due to limited availability, they may not return. As a result, their mental health may deteriorate.

Having resources available to college athletes is critical to mental health interventions, Jodoin said. She was not surprised by the survey’s finding of a lack of in-house psychiatric services.

“Sports medicine physicians are typically those who are part of the department’s staff, so a student would have to go outside their network to find that kind of support. It’s a difficult role to fill,” she said.

Support from college athletes is also a strong option, according to Jodoin. Only one in four respondents said their college offered support groups for their athletes.

“Peer-to-peer has traditionally worked very, very well for college students,” she said. “Getting student-athletes involved directly and allowing them to be ambassadors is a great place to start.”

Some college athletes sought each other out beyond their institutions. one college athlete support group led by The Hidden Opponent, a sports mental health organization with nearly 2,000 members.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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