Supporting student athletes’ mental health concerns

According to a recent study, student athletes continue to report high levels of mental health concerns.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – It’s the start of the school year which means many student athletes are heading to the classroom and the field. While many may feel excited about the start of the season, some student athletes are feeling the pressure to perform well.

According to a recent study, student athletes continue to report high levels of mental health concerns.

Many schools in southeast Minnesota have school-linked mental health services which provide schools with on-site therapists to help not only our student athletes but all students and staff members.

According to that same study, anxiety and depression for student athletes is 1.5 to two times higher than before the pandemic.

“They’ve missed out of some of that socialization. There really needs patience and some support around those children being able to catch up to where they would have been,” Family Service Rochester school-based mental health services clinical program manager Katherine Driskell said.

Students may feel pressured to not only perform well in the classroom but also the field or the court.

“The whole plate is too much and what I used to be able to handle but didn’t love, I have no patience for,” Driskell said.

“What I am seeing a lot more of is kids thinking they have to do individual sports and focus on that sport as well as play that sport year round which I don’t think is beneficial or healthy for kids. And I think that pressure, sometimes we forget to just allow kids to be kids,” Dover-Eyota activities director Tim Andring said.

With the rise in mental health issues in students, schools are investing in mental health resources and bringing therapists on site to talk with students during the school day.

“It provides easier access to mental health services that would otherwise have kids being gone from school longer than they otherwise would,” Driskell said.

Mental health experts encourage coaches and other school staff members create an environment where kids feel comfortable talking about their mental health.

“So this is where students and coaches can really step in and make a gigantic difference that they may never know about,” Driskell said.

“We’re a small enough district that we can build relationships, and building those relationships help to monitor if a kid is struggling,” Andring said.

While it may be easy to get caught up in the game, school staff members say it’s important not to forget the reason to play.

“I think sometimes we lose focus of what is really important and that’s the relationship that kids build with these other adults and their teammates and those experiences,” Andring said.

Every school in Minnesota does have some sort of counselor or social work at the school to support its students. You can reach out to your school district to find out how to seek help.