In recent years, there have been more reported suicides among student athletes, most notably the Katie Meyer tragedy that occurred last March. During the lockdown and early stages of the pandemic, a survey was conducted by the NCAA to gauge mental health concerns among student athletes. In the following months and years, student athletes still showed a significant increase in mental health concerns compared to pre-pandemic numbers. Being a student athlete requires not only an ability to juggle both academics and sports at the same time and many other facets of life. Additional time from jobs or internships and physical training, can make prioritizing mental health an issue. Student athletes are required to be attentive to intense daily schedules and are almost forced to become comfortable with the pressure of time constraints. Considering all those responsibilities coupled with the uptick in mental health crises, many students would appreciate being looked out for and being approached by educators, which can make them feel less alone and more comfortable.
Educators know best and were probably the first to speak with their students about the lockdown and the negative effects of the pandemic on academic performance, motivation, and mental health. The lockdown limited athletes from going outside and affected their ability to stay sharp in their athletic goals and pursuits. The lockdown had all but disallowed outdoor sports, leaving many student athletes to resort to new methods in order to keep themselves busy. Many took up new hobbies, indoor sports, and participated in social media trends hoping that this would break the monotony and simultaneously keep their bodies moving. It's important to remember how severely lockdown impacted student athletes. Not being able to partake in their sport potentially set them back on their success. Transitioning back to in-person practices might have revealed to some athletes that they were out of shape, ultimately having to work even harder just to get back to their prior form.
Student athletes, like anyone else, are susceptible to their own stigma and prejudices. It’s clear that from middle school all the way through professional sports the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community within sports and athletics departments has been rather slow. Minority athletes, specifically Black athletes, still often do not utilize mental health services and feel the need to hide their vulnerability. When it comes to stigma for student athletes, peers still assume that academics aren’t primarily their strength. Student athletes continue to have to deal with the pressure of academics on top of multiple commitments. Additionally, student athletes may feel a demand to keep up with their sports over their academics because of sports scholarships and grants that bind them to it. This can impact their ability to rest; some athletes may even develop eating disorders from how stressed they can get. Injuries are also a common burden of student athletes and the duration of recovery time can prove to be unsettling and anxiety-inducing.
How Educators Can Help
Since educators are often the first to notice when their students are academically struggling, it’s important to reach out. A great place to start is by communicating with them about practice days and meets and trying to understand their schedule. Being understanding about their schedule can help you plan deadlines and help work with these students. This can lift a burden off a student athlete’s shoulders so they can feel that their teachers care about them and are willing to accommodate them in some way. Moreover, educators should be open to discussion with their students about their mental health. During the pandemic, it was common to see that educators had to be sensitive and compassionate to those in their classes. Whether it was sickness or the loss of a loved one, educators had to be open to extending deadlines and recognize that mental health services were stretched incredibly thin. Being open to mental health discussions helps build better rapport among student athletes and can also create a positive learning environment for the students that take their classes. Paying attention to student health is becoming less of an unwritten rule for educators as time goes on and as mental health crises continue to spike.
Neolth can help in various ways and is designed to help with student’s emotional and mental well-being. There are multiple practices and activities that help to center and calm students, simultaneously keeping them to a schedule to remind them to prioritize their well-being and health. On top of providing accessible self-care, advice from student ambassadors and student-written blogs are readily available on the platform.
Neolth can be useful to student athletes and educators can lend a helping hand to those in need by spreading the message. Reaching out to students and student athletes alike can make learning easier, even creating a space where students feel more comfortable with who they are. In times where quality care may seem hard to come by, it helps when everybody does their part to try and help one another. Educators can play a big role in a student’s life, so it can be lifechanging when educators relate and talk with their students.
Clay, G. (2019, September 27). Black Student-Athletes Feel the Pressure of Their Legacies –. InsideSources. https://insidesources.com/black-student-athletes-feel-the-pressure-of-their-legacies/