Mental Health Awareness for College Athletics

Most students face a dreadful to-do list—tests, papers, group projects and part-time jobs. The list keeps growing, and on top of the list are the personal demands and stressors that come with everyday life.

Student-athletes deal with all of this in addition to a vigorous workout schedule, practice and game days. It’s enough to overwhelm anyone and may lead to mental health issues. However, student-athletes face barriers that prevent them from getting the help they need, namely not having a staff member specifically trained to help them navigate these troubling times.

Andrea Hanson, a graduate student in Counseling and Student Affairs, played college tennis for four years and is now an assistant tennis coach at MSUM. Expanding her knowledge of mental illnesses through her schooling has opened her eyes to the struggles student-athletes face every day, such as anxiety and depression.

Hanson created a training manual designed for coaches, athletic trainers and other athletic department personnel. The manual includes information on mental health issues that impact student-athletes and the symptoms and behaviors they may exhibit, such as excessive worry, fatigue or irritability.

The training demonstrates strategies on how to speak with student-athletes about seeking mental health services and provides case examples and role play scenarios to help coaches practice the skills gained through the training.

“After completing a review of current research, I wanted to do more to promote mental health to collegiate student-athletes,” said Hanson of creating the manual. “Through this research, I am better able to understand the stressors they experience and the barriers they face to seeking mental health services.”

Knowing what mental health issues college athletes face, Hanson is better able to talk to her athletes about these issues and find them help when needed.

“My passion for mental health has allowed me to gain a more complete picture of collegiate athletics and the role I play as an assistant coach,” Hanson said.