National Sports

Examining Student Athletes’ Mental Health

By Kate Gruetter

National/World Editor

In the year after Stanford Soccer player Katie Meyer’s tragic passing, discussions surrounding mental health — specifically in relation to student athletes — have intensified. Some colleges are committed to better supporting student athletes, while others stay eerily silent. As we pass the one year mark of the late Stanford goalie’s death, it’s important to recognize the steps colleges have taken, and still need to take, to support the mental health of their student athletes.

Though already a longstanding issue, Meyer’s suicide heightened discussions about the mental health challenges faced by athletes, with Olympians like Simone Biles coming forward to share their own stories. At the collegiate level, a 2019 research study observed that only 37 percent of female student-athletes reported satisfaction with team or college medical personnel, specifically regarding mental health, while 46 percent of males reported satisfaction. 

Following Meyer’s death, many colleges hired mental health professionals dedicated to the wellbeing of their student athletes, while other universities have increased the staffing for these sorts of support teams. For example, the University of Southern California has established the largest university-based sport psychology team in the country. Additionally, in July of last year, John Hopkins University named Ari Miller the Assistant Director of Student Athlete Mental Health and Performance. A licensed professional counselor, Miller can “serve as a bridge of communication to alert student-athletes of services that the center is offering that maybe they weren’t aware of. [He] also meet[s] with Counseling Center personnel to give them some education on the student-athlete experience and help them better understand the student-athletes they’re working with.” 

Other colleges have utilized similar counseling centers. According to Loyola Marymount University’s coordinator of mental health services, “In light of growing national and international awareness around athlete mental health, including several student-athlete suicides in recent years, the Loyola athletic department has worked closely with the Counseling Center to increase visibility, awareness, and accessibility of mental health services to student-athletes.” These counselor centers offer a variety of help, including individual and group therapy, single session Let’s Talk appointments, and workshops during both the academic year and summer. 

Stanford has also improved its mental health resources, establishing supplemental athlete-specific resources and Counseling and Psychological Services, in addition to other campus-wide resources. Though these steps are worth praising, it’s of utmost importance to continue encouraging colleges to support their athletes. The measures taken in the past year must continue into the future in order to protect student-athletes and ensure we do not forget Katie Meyer’s story. 

(Sources: Athletic Business, LA Times, The Greyhound, USA Today, USC)

Categories: National Sports, Sports

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