My Mind Playing Tricks: The Mental Health of Student Athletes

When the games end, there's that one athlete who heads to the locker room sunken back into the reality they tried to escape when they play their favorite sport; Getting into their own head, wondering if they were “good enough”. 

Athletes often don’t know they’re displaying signs of mental illness, and can’t get enough help because they don’t vocalize their true feelings. Santa Monica College (SMC) can help tackle this issue by paying close attention to the mental health of athletes.

Three Sophomores on SMC’s Women’s Basketball team - Camryn McMahan, Nina Gazzo, and Ariana Qunitana - shared their personal insight about how they feel on the topic of mental health. 

“Being both a student and athlete is tough because they both go hand and hand,” Qunitana said. “You have to get good grades in order to play, and get scouted by universities to make it out. With that comes pressure.” 

When dealing with their own mental health, student athletes - even those at SMC - go through a process of self-discovery. 

“When you first get to college you start to figure yourself out, [you] figure out how you handle things mentally,” McMahan said. Qunitana added, “I personally don’t use the resources at school. I chose to rather confide [in] my teammates and coaches when it comes to my problems."

College has also been an adjustment for Gazzo. 

“Coming out of high school you have everything taken care [of] for you,” she said. “So, coming to college [is] a huge transition … I do go to counselors, but I don't take advantage of all of the resources."

One would think college athletic departments would be able to effectively target student athletes that struggle with their mental well-being. If three student athletes - such as the three SMC athletes mentioned above - are aware of these issues, who's to say other teams don’t notice the signs. 

When discussing the relationship between mental health and sports, SMC Athletic Director Reggie Ellis emphasized the importance of realizing how mental affects student athletes.

Ellis said, “We’re working closely with the Wellness Center to have a mental health awareness session with our coaches, to talk about the different issues [about] how [they] affect the student athletes. This program is in full effect and we’re just waiting to set a date.”

Ellis is trying to change the narrative of mental health at SMC by starting the conversation on mental illness. 

“The biggest thing [we can do] is to make [student athletes] aware of what they are feeling and let them know it’s okay,” he said. “There are tremendous support systems at SMC that are here to help. One thing we are going to implement is a self check kiosk that allows athletes to check in and [perform] a self assessment.” 

This acknowledge from both parties on how the mental epidemic is spreading is essential. If you are dealing with any type of mental health issues please seek help from the Wellness Center, located on the SMC Main Campus in the Liberal Arts Building, Room 101`.

SportsJinea ColeComment