Just like a lack of acute illness doesn’t mean you are healthy, we need a perspective change to realize we can promote mental health beyond the absence of mental illness.
Think of a car battery … if you do not go into a game (or life) with it fully charged, you cannot be as effective. We want to optimize our mental health to improve quality of life and excellence in performance.
Three things we can do:
First – Build a culture that supports mental health … Talk about it. Remove stigma and barriers to seeking mental health services … And who is responsible? If everyone is, then no one is. Encourage your university/ school/ organization to have a full-time sport psychologist on staff to meet the need. If that can’t happen, coaches should connect with one in your community who is specially trained to address the unique needs of student-athletes.
Second – Encourage Sleep … A recent NCAA study found athletes get about 6.25 hours per night during the season (that’s not enough)! Sleep affects every organ and process in the body. A minimum of eight, preferably nine hours for student-athletes. Less than eight increases injury risk and negatively affects game performance.
Third – Create a supportive and safe environment to enhance mental well-being. It should be obvious, but prevent bullying, don’t promote excessive weight control, and step in and stop sexual abuse. Increase a sense of belonging and inclusion in your team. Adopt a positive coaching style.
I’m happy to share resources about how to do any and all of these things in greater depth. Enjoy the discussion on FOX17 below.