Advocating for the Mental Health of Student-Athletes at the NAIA National Convention

With responsibilities, expectations, and demands rising, student-athletes are facing a growing number of mental health issues that aren’t going away anytime soon. According to the American College of Sports Medicine,  approximately 30% of women and 25% of men who are student-athletes report feelings of anxiety, but only 10% of all college athletes with known mental health conditions seek care from a mental health professional.

The reasons are wide-ranging – stigma, inaccessibility, embarrassment, lack of representation – but the harsh reality is that many coaches, athletic directors, and other leaders are put in the difficult position of acting as counselors to athletes. From implementing one-on-one walks around campus to setting aside time for journaling, there are a number of ways in which leaders are working beyond their job description to support the mental health of collegiate athletes. 

At NAIA’s 2022 National Convention, Mantra Health’s Clinical Solutions Consultant Farah Gilani, MS, LPC-S, NCC joined the NAIA Governance Academy, the ASA Student-Athlete Leadership Summit, and led the Student-Athlete Mental Health session titled Preparing for the Future of Addressing Athlete Mental Health, which is available to view here.

Leaders in the field, including coaches and athletic directors, face the unique challenge of listening to athletes’ issues, reassuring their feelings, and addressing their anxiety, stress, and other mental health concerns, often without clinical support or guidance on what language to use and how to encourage help-seeking behaviors. 

During Gilani’s session, we learned that some leaders take one-on-one walks with athletes, offering a supportive voice. Others use journaling to help athletes process their feelings and emotions in real-time. While there’s no simple solution – and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health – Mantra Health is working with colleges and universities to ensure that student-athletes are given access to professional digital mental health services, which will not only improve mental health outcomes for student-athletes but ease the burden on leaders. 

We understand the challenges facing student-athletes and their coaches, athletic directors, and other key stakeholders. As NAIA’s official mental health provider, we are thrilled to bring student-athletes the mental health care they need to thrive. We offer colleges and universities access to our integrated provider network, full of virtual therapists and psychiatrists. 

Watch Mantra Health’s NAIA Governance Academy session here or schedule a call with our partnerships team today to learn more about our services.