Barriers to help-seeking

When we are reluctant to do something, or try something new, it is easy to come up with reasons to avoid it.  Seeking help for a mental health concern can be one of those things that student-athletes delay, defer, or avoid altogether. Below are some of the reasons why athletes might avoid help-seeking.

Internal Barriers

  • Uncertainty about what counselling/therapy is or how it might be useful.
  • Embarrassment, believing they “should” be able to handle it on their own.
  • Believing they can “tough it out” and it will get better.
  • Fear of what others might think if they start counselling/therapy.
  • Fear that the coach may judge them as unable to play or perform and there could be a loss of playing time or role on the team.
  • Desire for a “quick fix”.

External Barriers

  • Time crunch – Varsity athletes have very tight schedules and seeking help can easily fall low on the list of priorities.  It can seem impossible sometimes to make room in the schedule for one more thing.
  • They may be receiving messages from others who are influential in their lives that they shouldn’t talk to anyone about personal or private things.
  • Unaware of resources and/or how to access them.
  • Location of resources – Because varsity athletes have very tight schedules, the more distant the mental health service, the less likely they will be to use it.

Creating a culture in athletics where mental health issues are talked about as easily and readily as a physical injury will help to reduce the stigma.  When athletes know that coaches, peers, friends, parents, and others will not judge them negatively for addressing their mental health, that will help them feel free to seek help when needed.