Being a full-time college student while playing a sport is a very demanding task. Student-athletes across the country must deal with balancing school work, athletics and their personal life while trying to remain stable.
Sara Johnsen- Mental health issues–such as anxiety, depression and addiction–never give people a day off. People who have these illnesses suffer from them all day everyday and they do not stop during the season for athletes.
According to a recent study in early 2016, 1 in 4 collegiate athletes show signs of depression. These rates are considered to be comparable to the rates of depression in the general population of the college, meaning students who do not participate in sports.
The NCAA recognizes the issue of mental health as well. Stated on their website, under the “Health and Safety” tab, mental health is a topic of discussion. The National Collegiate Athletic Association recognized that student athletes, no matter what division they are in, are exposed to more risk factors of mental health issues that involve stress than their peers would be.
These risk factors vary: examples like loaded schedules, time management demands, interactions with coaches and other teammates (and players from opposing teams), school assignments and GPA requirements, and the overall pressure to perform up the expectations of their team are very demanding to student-athletes.
“Often times athletes are glorified as these people who can multitask so easily and succeed in both school and sports but people don’t recognize the extra time and pressure that is put on us to be successful,” Brittany Smith, sophomore field hockey and softball player, said.
Mental health issues impact the lives of student-athletes off the field but the addition to on-the-field activity and the impact of sports in students’ lives have a negative effect. Information from the NCAA and American College Health Association showed that 41 percent of all student-athletes felt too depressed to function, 52 percent had feelings of overwhelming anxiety and 14 percent of student-athletes had seriously considered suicide.
The data proves mental illness in student athletes is dangerous. If students are showing signs of depression and anxiety and even considering suicide their overall performance as a student-athlete will be altered.
“If you suffer from anxiety or depression it can cause you to play lower than you usually do because you aren’t focused on the right things,” Smith said.
Brian Hainline, the association’s medical chief, said in an interview with Jake New of Inside Higher Ed, “My hope is that mental health is going to become as accessible to every student-athlete as an ankle sprain and the NCAA is going to take a leadership role in telling the rest of the United States of America how to move away from the pathetic way it handles mental health. And it is pathetic.”
Devon Johnson – Whether one is in high school or college, the life of a student-athlete is not for everyone. When one commits to being a student-athlete, the thing that comes first before any sport is the school work. Sports comes second. However, with students trying to balance out both lives, it can sometimes bring upon a lot of overwhelming stress on the their physical health, mental health and the student’s lifestyle.
Studies by the NCAA show that both depression and anxiety are the main mental illnesses that strike student-athletes. These illnesses, as well as others, can cause poor performances, relationship struggles, health issues and even life threatening actions.
Nick Straub, sophomore golf player, shared a small insight on how it is being a student-athlete.
“Playing a sport and keeping up with schoolwork can be very stressful,” Straub said. “During busy times in the school year it can be very overwhelming to keep up with schoolwork and practice.”
Aside from everyone else, student-athletes have uncommon pressures to handle on top of the other stressors such as schedule restrictions, relationships with teammates and coaches, time restraints, and so on.
“Just spending time with the team is important,” Deqwan Phillips, sophomore lacrosse and roller hockey player, said.
Building a healthy relationship with their teammates can help student-athletes get through hardships that they may encounter. Factoring in personal situations, the stress of being a student and an athlete on top of everything else can cause anxiety. Especially for those who are considered to be highly motivated individuals.
“A good way to relieve stress is to do nothing and hang out with friends,” Hassan David Goines Jr., junior swim team member, said.
Many people do believe and preach this method.
However, studies show that student-athletes who need help either hide the fact they they are seeking it or won’t even admit that they in fact need help. Individuals imagine that they can handle their depression and anxiety on their own, refusing help and the thought of them truly struggling out loud.
“Student-athletes find ways to cope with the stress of balancing sports and school work by allocating time to use the resources available to succeed academically but also have time to themselves to relax,” Phillips said.
There are minor things that students can do to help them stay away from going down that dark road. Straub trusts that working out and staying on top of things helps take some of the stress off of students backs. Student-athletes struggle with many things that not many people may even notice.
They should not be afraid to seek out for help when they begin to notice signs of depression or intense anxiety.
“As a student athlete it’s important to plan out the day accordingly to the individual,” Goines said.
However one may find help, whether it be through professional help, help from those close to them or self help, be sure that it is healthy and sufficient. Finding ways to relieve stress as a student-athlete will keep your mind and body healthy and focused at all times.