It’s back to school season, and that also means fall sports season! Many students are looking forward to the Friday night lights on the football field, energetic voices of cheerleaders, chilled air on the soccer field, or crunching leaves during a cross country race. However, recently attention has been brought to a very serious issue in our country, the responsibility of the mental health and wellbeing of student athletes.
In the same way that you take responsibility in helping your student make sure that their body is healthy this time of year, it’s important that you consider their mental health as well. Sadly, the rates of death by suicide in student athletes has increased significantly in recent years. Statistics show that death by suicide is now the third highest cause of death in student athletes.1 With football players, specifically men of color, at the highest risk of a mental health crisis that results in death by suicide.2
There is ongoing research into the factors that make student athletes feel overwhelmed and depressed to the point of contemplating ending their lives. As the adult in their lives, it’s important that you take initiative to ensure that your student feels that they have someone to talk to if they are struggling with the daily pressures of performing athletically and academically. Suicide is preventable, but young people need adults they can trust to look out for their mental health.
To ensure your student athlete has the support on the field, ask their coach how they are addressing the mental health needs of their athletes. Here are some questions that we recommend asking your student’s coaches or athletic directors:
- How is mental health discussed with the team?
- How is this athletic program addressing the recent spike in mental health crisis in student athletes?
- What programs are in place in the case that a youth athlete is suffering a mental health crisis?
- What training do students and staff receive about mental health and the warning signs of a student or staff in crisis?
- What is the mental health emergency protocol in this athletic program?
If your coaches and athletic directors are unsure how to answer any of these questions, it’s important to keep the conversation going. Our mental health professionals are standing by to offer training, support, and resources to you and your teams to ensure that athletes are physically and mentally healthy this season.
Prevention is the most important step in eliminating death by suicide for youth athletes. In order to prevent it, you need to be proactive and work as a team with coaches, educators, families, and youth. Just as you expect students to work as a team on the field, adults need to work as a team to keep student’s mental health at the forefront.
For more information, contact Zumbro Valley Health Center at https://www.zvhc.org/contact/. In case of emergency, contact the Suicide and Crisis hotline by dialing 988.