The Stigma of Mental Health and Its Impact on Student Athletes

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 6:59 PM EDT
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Caribou, Maine (WAGM) - Even though we continue to bring awareness to Mental Health, whether we like it or not, the stigma is still out there and it can have big impacts on athletic performances for athletes.

Amy Deprey: " I definitely think that there’s a stigma around mental health and our student athletes. A lot of people when their thinking about mental health, think that people are weak if their struggling and weakness is not something a student athlete wants to be associated with. So i think that because of that stigma, a lot of our student athletes don’t seek support and don’t talk about the challenges that their having”.

Amy Deprey, AMHC’s Behavioral Health Home Child and Family Administrative Manager, says mental health can have a big impact on an athlete’s ability to perform.

Amy Deprey: “If your feeling good physically and emotionally your going to perform better, If your struggling with an physical ailment and your struggling with depression or anxiety, its going to impact your ability to perform”.

Carly Flowers: " I look at mental health as a physical injury, so if somebody has a physical injury there not performing at their best right, and so mental health if they are struggling in any aspect of their life whether its sport specific or maybe in the classroom or at home, there not up to 100 percent you know at their best level so i think that it affects them when they come into a practice or game when their not right, they cant focus correctly”.

and while male and female athletes both go through similar issues when it concerns mental health, there are some differences in how its approached and how it might affect them.

Amy Deprey: " Female athletes probably will ask for help quicker or sooner then our male athletes because its more socially acceptable for our females to talk about their feelings and emotions. You might see your female athlete acting sad or more emotional where our male athletes might become more agitated and aggressive”.

But while there are problems, there are also solutions or steps that can be taken to better understand the mind of the student athletes around you, starting with not focusing as much on expectations such as winning.

Amy Deprey: " One of the ways i think we can change this is by changing the conversation, and in changing the conversation we need to change the questions. So when your youth athlete comes home instead of asking a question that usually results in a one word answer like ‘did you win?’, I think a better questions is ‘tell me about the game’, ‘how was the game’. And that usually leads to a dialogue with your student athlete in which they you might be in a conversation 10 to 15 minutes before you even get to the outcome of the game”.

Carly Flowers: " I think in my role as an athletic director and what i push to coaches as well is just to talk to them, get to know your athletes, get to know them as people. Because then we can figure out what’s different, we can see those changes as they come about, we can you know tell that they might be struggling with something and then we can pull them aside and just get to know more about what’s going on, support, offer you know somebody to talk to help them find resources”.

Deprey and Flowers reiterate that its key to keep the conversation going, as it can really help those who might feel scared talking about something that makes them feel vulnerable , whether your an athlete or not and to reach out for help, whether it be through coaches and teachers or professionals, if you feel you need it.

Jonathon Eigenmann, Newssource sports.

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