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Athletes and Depression

November 17, 2017

Lily Guillen / The Courier

Disclaimer: Quotations used by the Monmouth College student athlete are kept anonymous to ensure personal well-being and privacy.

Monmouth College athletics prides itself on the idea of being a student before an athlete. Emphasizing being a student does not disregard the pressures one faces as an athlete. Instead, it often heightens it. Though being a part of Division III athletics lacks scholarships and publicity, and more often than not a professional future, one should not discredit the many trials members overcome.

In 2016 the American College Health Association surveyed undergraduate students and reported 31.3 percent are so depressed it was difficult to function. Pair such statistics with the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors research that found there is just 1 college counselor to every 1,604 students. At Division I, II, and III levels, 21,000 college athletes indicated that mental health issues were not uncommon. However, associate professor at the University Of Michigan School Of Public Health, Daniel Eisenberg, states that only 10% of college athletes with mental health conditions actually report them.

“Admitting that there is an issue is almost admitting weakness. Being an athlete, I don’t want to be viewed as weak,” reported one Monmouth College student. “Student athletes want to be as perfect as possible. Performance both academically and athletically are crucial.” Lest we forget that each member of a sports team at Monmouth College is indeed human. “There are tests, work, homework, relationships and other organizations that demand involvement, all happening simultaneously.” Such problems are faced daily and pressures to perform each task at the highest level are mentally taxing.

Outside of the classroom, athletes at Monmouth College are expected to devote at least 12 hours to their sport of choice, often more. Just one integrated course expects a student to spend 12.5 hours dedicated to studying. Multiply that by the number of classes an average student is allowed to take at Monmouth, which is four, and at the bare minimum over 60 hours are dedicated to just school and sports. Take into consideration student athletes that are in season, often miss class or labs due to practice or games, fall behind on study hours and sleep, are still vying for playing time. Although, they might appear like they have their life in order most of the time, more often than not they are continuously suffering.

Unable to cope, performance in and out of the classroom, as well as on and off the field, can suffer. Without an understanding coach and an unequipped athletic department, many athletes are left to deal with mental illness on their own. “Monmouth, as an institution, does a decent job at dealing with cases of depression, whereas coaches and the athletic department have no specific person who has the athletic knowhow on how to deal with a mentally struggling athlete.” The student-athlete continued to say that at best the coaches will tell you to take a day off, or two, and will ask you to eventually come back.

Overall, the school as a whole, as opposed to only the athletic department, is quicker to suggest help, via the counselors, if a student is having issues with depression which is a step in the right direction. The student-athlete suggested ways in which the athletic department could be proactive in aiding the fight against mental illness. “A psychological evaluation should be implemented each year. We have to do concussion testing for sports that are non-contact so why shouldn’t we implement a test that evaluates our mental health?” The Monmouth College student and athlete continued to say that an all-team mental health awareness workshop should be required for all of Monmouth College athletics to attend. “I know that asking for a Sport Psychologist is basically asking the school to pay thousands of dollars more for something we basically already have, so I believe the workshop and evaluation methods could at least introduce the conversation of mental illness within some of our athletes at MC.”

Tessa Jones
Features Editor

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