Following two NCAA Student-Athlete Well-Being Studies conducted in 2020, student-athletes continue to report high levels of mental health issues.
Data indicates that rates of mental exhaustion, anxiety and depression have seen little change since fall 2020 and remain 1.5 to two times higher than those identified before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, student-athletes reported lower levels of hopelessness in fall 2021 compared to the first year of the pandemic.
The Association-wide survey, open from November 17 to December 17. 13, received responses from more than 9,800 student-athletes. It was designed by NCAA Research in collaboration with the NCAA Sports Science Institute and the Division I, II and III Student-Athlete Advisory Committees.
This study did not measure student-athlete responses compared to the overall student population, which also faces these mental health issues.
When responding to mental health support questions, 69% of female sports participants and 63% of male sports participants agreed or strongly agreed that they know where to go for help. campus if they have mental health issues.
Under the NCAA Constitution, each member school is responsible for facilitating an environment that strengthens physical and mental health within athletics by ensuring access to appropriate resources and open engagement in physical and mental.
But when asked if they would feel comfortable seeking support from a mental health provider on campus, less than half of participants in both women’s and men’s sports said they would. agree or strongly agree with this statement (48% and 46%, respectively).
Continuing outreach efforts on campus is one way to try to bridge the gap between knowing where to go for mental health concerns and feeling comfortable seeking that help.
“A lot of what influences direction on this topic is the types of conversations that are happening on a campus regarding mental health,” said Scott Hamilton, a clinical mental health counselor at DePauw. “Are there groups on campus, whether through the athletic department or counseling services, that are using their voices to help reduce stigma?”
Hamilton is also the student-athlete mental health coordinator at DePauw. In this role, Hamilton has witnessed first-hand how student-athlete attitudes can change.
He said it was fascinating to conduct mindfulness or psychological flexibility training as a team.
“After a week or two, you start to see familiar faces show up at the counseling center,” said Hamilton, who has worked at DePauw for 12 years. “When college campuses are willing to have open conversations about the importance of mental health, taking care of yourself mentally can ease the apprehension of student-athletes seeking help.”
The Sports Science Institute provides health and safety resources to college athletes, coaches, athletic administrators and campus partners. Mental health educational resources include a review of best practices, data and research And summits and working groups.
The survey included a question about teammates taking each other’s mental health issues seriously. Sixty-five percent of participants in women’s sports and 58% of participants in men’s sports agreed or strongly agreed. Along the same lines, 56% of participants in both men’s and women’s sports reported knowing how to help a teammate experiencing a mental health issue.
When asked if they thought their mental health was a priority for their athletics department, 55% of male athletic participants and 47% of female student-athletes agreed or strongly agreed.
When asked if their coaches took their mental health issues seriously, 59% of participants in men’s sports agreed or strongly agreed, and 50% of participants in women’s sports responded the same. manner.
Mental health issues during the pandemic
Mental health concerns remained highest among demographic subgroups of student-athletes generally showing higher rates of mental distress (women, student-athletes of color, those identifying on the queer spectrum, and those reporting family economic difficulties).
This survey, along with the previous two surveys, asked participants if they felt mentally exhausted, had difficulty sleeping, felt overwhelming anxiety, were sad, felt a sense of loss, or thought things were hopeless.
The largest percentage point decrease was seen among women’s sports respondents when it came to feeling very lonely or hopeless.
Sixteen percent of women’s sports participants reported feeling very lonely all the time or almost every day, a drop of 5 percentage points from the fall 2020 survey. Ten percent of those surveyed in the field women’s sport said the situation was desperate, compared to 16% who responded that way in the previous survey.
Thirty-eight percent of participants in women’s sports and 22% of participants in men’s sports reported feeling mentally exhausted constantly or almost every day, the most common concern reported.
Student-athletes expressed more optimism about their ability to complete and succeed in their fall 2021 classes compared to spring and fall 2020.
Half of the student-athletes were satisfied with their ability to balance academics and extracurricular activities, including athletics. Self-reported balance was higher among male sports athletes (56%) than among female sports athletes (47%).
Factors regarding transfer
Since the Division I governance structure modified the one-time exception transfer rules to include baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey prior to the 2021-22 academic year, transfers have become a hotter topic among the media and fans.
Eight percent of all student-athletes surveyed indicated it was likely they would transfer at some point during the 2021-22 academic year.
Mental health (61% of female participants, 40% of males), conflicts with a coach or teammates (56% of females, 34% of males) and playing time (34% of females, 36% of males). ) were the most cited reasons for considering a transfer, among those considering doing so at some point during the year.
Racial and gender equity
Student-athletes continue to volunteer in their communities, participate in social and civic engagement activities, and learn about injustices for themselves.
Eighty-four percent of women’s sport respondents and 78% of men’s sport respondents said they occasionally or frequently do volunteer work. Two-thirds of participants in both men’s and women’s sports reported occasionally or frequently discussing politics.
When it came to engagement with racial justice in the previous six months, 81% of female athletes and 73% of male athletes took an active role in learning about race or racial justice on their own. More than 60% of participants in women’s and men’s sports reported having conversations with teammates focused on race or racial justice.
When it comes to commitment to gender equality, 72% of participants in women’s sports and 56% of participants in men’s sports said they actively tried to learn about gender equality on their own. Fifty-eight percent of women and 46% of men occasionally or frequently had conversations with teammates focused on gender equity.
Student-athletes were most likely to indicate a desire for educational resources on taxes and financial literacy; Career Objective; navigate name, image and likeness opportunities; and professional opportunities in sport.
Fifty percent of female athletes and 49% of male athletes wanted more resources for tax knowledge and education.
When it comes to NIL opportunities, 42% of men’s sports participants and 39% of women’s sports participants said they want more educational resources.
Forty-one percent of men’s sports participants and 35% of women’s sports participants wanted resources regarding career opportunities in their sport.