Skyline supports student athletes at risk of depression

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Skyline supports student athletes at risk of depression

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Nearly one quarter of student athletes suffer from depression, according to an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. These findings, based on a study by Drexel and Kean Universities, highlight the importance of mental health support in athletics and also bring up the question of why student athletes are so at risk.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) posits that the increase of depression and other mental health disorders in students athletes is an indication of the link between physical and mental health and suggests treating student athletes’ depression as one would an injury.

Here at Skyline, the athletics department takes this recommendation seriously and pays close attention to students’ dispositions on and off the playing field. Coaches and the Skyline athletic trainer are available to talk with student athletes and can refer students who may need help to the Health Center on Campus where trained counselors are available to provide psychological and health services.

The Health Center is one of the best resources available for student athletes who may be affected by depression. There, counselors Beverly Muse, MFT and Liz Llama, MFT are available both by appointment and during drop in hours, which are Monday through Thursday 12:00PM to 1:00PM.

The health center also boasts a wall of informational pamphlets for those who aren’t ready to speak with a counselor or who would just like more information. Some of the pamphlets available include topics such as men and depression, information about depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, helping a friend, and anger and combat stress.

The question remains then, if all of these resources are available for student athletes, why are the rates of depression so staggering?

One factor that may affect student athlete rates of depression is the unique stressors and performance pressures that come with juggling academics and athletics. For many, keeping on top of homework and grades can be difficult enough. Add to that athletics practice, traveling for games, keeping fit, and dealing with competition and it’s easy to see why student athletes may be suffering from stress and depression.

“I had school, after school I had practice for three hours, and then from there, I had to go to work,” says second year student Cindy Barrios, who played soccer last year at Skyline. “It was difficult.” Along with performance pressure, this highlights another issue facing student athletes: time. Many student athletes juggle not only academics and athletics, but employment as well, leaving them rushed and often bereft of a good night’s sleep. This can be dangerous, as it’s more difficult to rebound from setbacks or feelings of depression without the rejuvenating qualities of sleep.

Yet none of these are new problems facing student athletes, and, according to Joe Morello Jr., the Dean of Athletics, Dance, and Kinesiology at Skyline College, depression in student athletes might not be so new either. “In my mind, it’s not something that has really changed over the last 30 some odd years that I’ve been in college athletics,” he says, “There’s different levels of connections now than what it was 30 years ago. There’s more openness in our society. People feel a little bit freer to express that, ‘yeah I have been depressed’.”

He recognizes that social media has been an important catalyst for conversation around mental health issues and thinks that increased connection online has allowed more students to open up and start the conversation.

Students Raymart Aquino, the Skyline Basketball team manager, and Sam M Kalani say that social media has been a “huge” change for how student athletes communicate about mental health. “More people choose to talk on social media than in person,” Sam says, “because they’re afraid of the reactions they’ll get from other people.”

“It definitely empowers people sometimes,” agrees Raymart, “It’s easy access, anyone can sign up.” This is a key element of social media’s appeal for students to start the conversation; it’s much easier to send a private message to a friend right after a significant let down, and to receive immediate relief, than to wait to see someone in person. Waiting can sometimes lead to second guessing the veracity of feelings, or questioning what someone’s response might be.

It seems that in our modern age of interconnected technology, it may be that an old problem is finally coming to light.

Whatever the case may be, it is clear that depression in student athletes is an important issue, and one that can be helped with more communication and access to resources such as the Health Center. Keeping in mind the added pressures of being an athlete as well as a student, it’s imperative that Skyline continue to provide mental health support to its student athletes.

If you or a loved one have been feeling down for longer than two weeks, it may be time to reach out to someone, start the conversation, or talk to a trained counselor at the campus health center.