With constant work and a nonstop schedule, it is not unlikely for student athletes at the collegiate level to deal with stress or even deeper mental health issues as the balance between school, sports and being alone for the first time can be new and difficult.
According to Vice, who quoted the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “about 30 percent of surveyed female student-athletes shows signs of depression, compared to just 18 percent of their male counterparts.”
BGSU assistant athletic director, Chet Hesson, works with a handful of students through student athletic services, whether it be academic or personal related.
“We meet with all of our students one on one once a week, for half an hour. They're also required to do study table hours in our office. So minimum six hours per week,” Hesson said. “We can see them very frequently, leading to a lot of mentor, mentee relationships.”
With a doctorate in leadership studies from BGSU with which he wrote a dissertation on student-athlete experiences, Hesson is very aware and knowledgeable on what could be happening in some athletes.
“(Student Athletic Services has) been doing a lot on our campus, as well within our conference, the Mid-American Conference, to break down some of the barriers that students and student athletes might face and sharing mental health challenges,” he said. “In doing so, we are just trying to create education and awareness along the lines of, where to go and how to receive assistance.”
One of the main resources on campus for student athletes is the Student Athletic Service Center which aims to assist these athletes in bettering themselves through academics but also developing the best version of themselves.
With one of the main findings of his research being good time management, there are also other important ways to maintain good mental health as a student athlete.
“Those that are focused academically and on developing themselves holistically outside their sport,” Hesson said. “Then having a relationship with their coach beyond the X's and O's of their sport.”
Volleyball setter and defensive specialist, Kerstie Shaw, has been playing volleyball for 11 years. With practice due to pre-collegiate volleyball, she discovered the importance of time management quickly when coming to BGSU.
“Having to balance school and sports has taught me a lot about time-management and staying organized,” Shaw said. “I've had to learn to take responsibility and prioritize to be sure I'm getting everything I need to be taken care of.”
With an overall assumption that student-athletes can’t have poor mental health, because in the end they picked this lifestyle, Shaw said she’s expected to be mentally tough and not have any of these feelings.
According to the NCAA, Ann Kearns Davoren and Seunghyun Hwang say that about 30% of the 195,000 college students polled, including those who are athletes, have felt depressed and 50% have felt some kind of anxiety or stress through the past 12 months.
“One of my favorite Instagram accounts is Victoria Garrick, a former USC volleyball player who struggled with mental health and eating disorders while she was playing,” Shaw said. “Now she's an advocate for mental health in student-athletes and even started a nonprofit called The Hidden Opponent that sheds light on the importance of mental health in student-athletes.”
Soccer midfielder, Sophia Barnes, has been playing soccer since she was a child. Once coming to BGSU, she too vouched that the balance between school and sport was difficult.
With a personal role in athletics, Barnes helps facilitate Mental Health Week and the things that go along with that. She also can recognize that there is a preconceived notion that athletes need to be 100 percent all of the time, with no room to take a break for themselves.
“I've kind of dedicated myself to the last two years to just show that stigma and show that we're in a loving community,” Barnes said. “We're just not like teammates, but more so friends.”
With support from outside sources and BGSU’s Student Athlete Services, it is clear that mental health is an issue for many student athletes.
“You have physical health, just as much as you have a mental health. If you have a sprained ankle, you would treat it would get rehab, you would monitor it and be more aware of it and conscious of that ankle,” Hesson said. “Similarly with your mental health, if something were to happen and might be as a result of something physical, it can have an impact on your mentality.”