For athletes, physical health is always at the forefront of our minds, but is mental health? We lift, we see nutritionists and we practice day in and day out to keep our bodies in top shape. However, does all this work cause us to neglect the all powerful brain that keeps our body going? It is no secret that stress is an important issue in the lives of Wellesley College students. Studies suggest that student athletes can feel stress from additional unique stressors associated with their involvement in athletics that non-athletes may not feel, including extensive time demands, injuries, sports-specific stress and more .
In a study conducted by the associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, it was found that 33 percent of all college students experience significant symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. Of this group, only 30 percent sought help. Yet of the college athletes with mental conditions, a mere 10 percent sought help.
So the question is: Does Wellesley do enough to show the other 90 percent of affected athletes how they can seek help? The answer to this question is a bit complex, as it has changed throughout the last four years. A senior in the athletic community shared that “In the past two years, [the administration has] done a better job of making sure to at least incorporate mental health and potential resources into talks and what not. But previously, so my first two years , I don’t remember them ever really saying anything about it.”
This year, there have been three sessions regarding mental health for Wellesley athletes wherein available resources were discussed, as well as the importance of sleep, proper nutrition and stress management. These meetings have come in response to complaints that the athletic community was lacked the discussions necessary to support students struggling with mental health issues.
In January of 2017, Wellesley College, in conjunction with PERA, NCAA and Wellesley Health Services, hosted a Student-Athlete Mental Health and Wellness Program on campus, the first of its kind in NCAA Division III. The two-day program was open to all club and varsity student-athletes, as well as faculty and staff. The event covered resources that are available for student-athletes, emergency protocol, referrals and more. The department also hired a sports psychologist to advise the faculty and coaches with any mental health matters. This semester, she has met with various groups on campus, including the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, to understand what mental health resources athletes on campus are lacking. In response to the meetings, a senior student-athlete said, “I wish they had more speakers and events and open panels, but they are taking steps in the right direction.”
This semester, the Wellesley athletic community has commited to taking important strides to show all afflicted student-athletes that it is okay to ask for help and that there are resources, such as the Stone Center and athletic trainers, available to them.