Athletes and the Effect of Mental Health

Mental health is a very serious issue, but it is talked about more and more now in athletes. On April 26th, JMU softball player Lauren Bernett tragically died by suicide. This tragedy sparked the conversation of the importance of mental health in collegiate and high school athletes. 

   There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on student athletes. They have the pressure of their sport, as well as their academics. This does not just affect one group; it varies by age, sex, race, religion, sport, and division. A study from the National Library of Medicine on suicide in NCAA athletes found that male athletes have a higher rate, and football is the sport with the biggest risk. Even though this part of the study pointed to a specific group, it does not mean awareness does not need to be brought to mental health in general with all athletes. 

   After Bernett’s death, people are wondering what the NCAA’s next step is for mental health awareness in sports, whether it be collegiate or high school. Coaches may focus on the player’s physical health and ability to play in the game, but mental health is just as important, and focusing on mental health needs to be more normalized. 

   Many people struggling with mental illnesses such as depression may seem fine, even ‘normal’. However, this does not mean that they are; Bernett was an example of this. Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, sexes, religions, races, and situations. Someone could be in what some people say is a ‘better position,’ socially and economically, but still be struggling. Bernett may have seemed fine on the outside, but inside she was hurting. On April 25th, she was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week, and on April 26th, she was gone. =

   It can be hard to see signs, but May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so make sure to check up on your friends and family.