Some student-athletes at Ohio University hope to see more specialized mental health resources on campus.
Student Senate passed a bill Feb. 14 demanding Ohio University take more responsibility for the mental health needs of student-athletes.
“At the end of the day, the difference between me competing my absolute best, and me saying ‘I just don’t have it today,’ is having someone to talk to, to help put things into perspective for me so I won’t get anxious, depressed, obsessive or what have you,” track team co-captain and Student Athlete Advisory Committee Vice-President Emily Deering said.
Deering, who is also the athletic senator for Student Senate, was the primary sponsor of the bill, which asks for increased collaboration between academic and athletic administrations when it comes to student-athletes’ mental health needs. The bill also asks for the formation of a conference committee to discuss specialized mental health counseling for other groups on campus.
In an email, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Fred Weiner said, “All services at Counseling and Psychological Services are available for all students, including student athletes.”
While those services are available to all students at the university, Deering said the way to help student-athletes and minority groups in particular is to make services “accessible, specialized and ongoing.” Student-athletes may have different psychological needs than other students.
“The bill isn’t meant to say that OU or the athletics department isn’t making efforts," Deering said. "I’m here to keep encouraging the efforts being made and to say that they aren’t enough. We need more.”
In the Jan. 31 Student Senate meeting, Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said the university invested $1 million into Counseling and Psychological Services, hiring two full-time psychiatrists and six staff members and added WellTrack, an interactive online therapy program available to students.
None of the professionals hired were sports psychologists. Weiner said that there are “no plans at this time to consider hiring a sports psychologist, nor was that requested by the Student Senate bill.”
The Feb. 14 bill did cite data from a survey conducted by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee that stated 87 percent of student-athletes at OU believe “one or more of their teammates could benefit from access to a sports psychologist.” In the same survey, 91 percent answered “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they would personally benefit from access to a sports psychologist.
The survey was sent to all student-athletes and had 201 total responses, Deering said.
Adam Notestine, secretary of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and a redshirt freshman football player, said when he attended the Mid-American Conference’s Mental Health Summit in 2017, he noticed that “other schools around the MAC had sports-specific psychologists and stuff like that, and we didn’t have any.”
Since then, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee has been working to increase efforts to improve student-athlete mental health. Some of its outreach has included tabling in Baker Center for Mental Health Awareness Week and posting photo shoots featuring OU student-athletes on its Instagram.
“I think as student-athletes we are thought of as being strong all the time, but in reality, our sports can drain our mental health,” Notestine said. “We feel like we have to stay strong no matter what, and we don’t know what to do.”