ACHA Conference 2017

The American College Health Association's Annual Conference had several sessions that were dedicated to the mental health of collegiate athletes. Much of the discussion was which department/entity was providing the mental/behavioral health care to the student athlete's. Here-in lies the issue. There is no standardized protocol to address collegiate student athlete's mental well-being. 

Care is currently being overseen by various disciplines within the athletic departments; Sports medicine, athletic training, academic advising; which oftentimes is a referral to the campus counseling center, where studies show athletes are not going to go. Some bigger schools do have either an in-house counselor (from the Campus Counseling Center) that comes to the athletic department or a contracted mental health professional that the athlete can be sent to in the community. This model is the bare minimum. I found that due to finances many colleges piece together services for athletes as best they can. 

This conference has highlighted for me the importance of the Advocacy portion of CWP. We have got to get one Mental Wellness designated personnel in our collegiate athletic departments. The athletes need someone identified for them that is proximate and accessible.

While in Austin, I took the opportunity to visit UT-Austin's Athletic Department, where in September they added a structure for Mental Wellness. They have hired a Mental Wellness Coordinator, who's trained as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). I applaud the University of Texas. This staff member is not associated with any sport and has the SAs best interest as their central focus. This staff's office is IN the athletic department. She is open for athlete's to make appointments or just stop by to have a conversation. She has gone to practices and met with teams to ensure they know she is there for them and that her door is always open. She reported that her office visits have tripled since she began. Not all visits are planned care, they may just be check-in's. These numbers alone provide basic support for the need of position like this at other institutions.

The student athlete is a unique entity, the stressors on them are different than that of non-athlete college students. They may not need "therapy" which is given by a campus counselor, what they need may be a safe place to talk about those unique stressors. A person that can provide additional information on how to manage those unique situations that arise from being SAs.  As athletic departments open up their athletes for research we are more able to determine what will work for them and how best to meet their mental health needs.