Mental health stigma and its impact on student-athletes

Caribou, Maine (WAGM) – Even though we continue to raise awareness about mental health, whether we like it or not, the stigma is still there and it can have big impacts on athletic performance for athletes.

Amy Deprey: “I really think there’s a stigma around mental health and our student-athletes. A lot of people, when they think about mental health, think people are weak if their difficulties and their weakness is not something a student-athlete wants to associate with. So I think because of that stigma, a lot of our student-athletes don’t seek support and don’t talk about the challenges they have”.

Amy Deprey, AMHC’s executive director for child and family behavioral health, says mental health can have a big impact on an athlete’s ability to perform.

Amy Deprey: “If you feel good physically and emotionally you will perform better, if you have a physical illness and suffer from depression or anxiety it will impact your ability to perform.”

Carly Flowers: “I think of mental health as a physical injury, so if someone has a physical injury that’s not functioning at their best, and therefore mental health if they’re struggling in any aspect of their life, whether it’s in sports or maybe in the classroom or at home, there’s not up to 100 percent that you know at their best, so I think it affects them when ‘they come into a practice or a game when they are not correct, they cannot concentrate properly’.

and although male and female athletes experience similar mental health issues, there are some differences in how this is addressed and how it might affect them.

Amy Deprey: “Female athletes will likely seek help more quickly or sooner than our male athletes because it’s more socially acceptable for our women to talk about their feelings and emotions. You might see your female athlete acting sad or more emotional where our male athletes might become more restless and aggressive.”

But while there are issues, there are also solutions or steps that can be taken to better understand the minds of the student-athletes around you, starting with not focusing so much on expectations such as victoire.

Amy Deprey: “I think we can change that by changing the conversation, and by changing the conversation, we have to change the questions. So when your young athlete comes home instead of asking a question that usually ends in a word of response like “did you win?”, I think a better question is “tell me about the game”, “how was the game”. And that usually leads to a dialogue with your student athlete in which you could be in a conversation 10 to 15 minutes before you even get to the outcome of the game”.

Carly Flowers: “I think in my role as athletic director and what I also push coaches to do is just talk to them, get to know your athletes, get to know them as people. Because that then we can figure out what’s different, we can see those changes as they happen, we can tell you that they might be struggling with something, and then we can put them aside and find out more about what’s going on, support, offer to talk to someone to help you find resources”.

Deprey and Flowers reiterate that this is key to keeping the conversation going, as it can really help those who might be afraid to talk about something that makes them vulnerable, whether you are an athlete or not and ask for help, either through coaches. and teachers or professionals, if you feel the need.

Jonathon Eigenmann, Newssource sports.

Copyright 2022 WAGM. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment