The stigma that is still stubbornly attached to mental health issues can inhibit a student-athlete from seeking assessment and care. Approaching a student-athlete with a concern about his or her mental well-being can be an uncomfortable experience for anyone, including a coach or athletic trainer.
If you have a concern about an athlete’s mental health, it’s important that you have the facts correct, with context, relative to the behaviour of concern before arranging for a private meeting with the student-athlete (that is, be specific about what has raised your concern).
The conversation should focus on the student-athlete not as an athlete, but as a person. Empathetic listening is vital. Encouraging the athlete to seek a mental health assessment can be put in perspective, reminding the athlete that his or her psychological health is just as (and arguably more) important as physical health. Giving permission to seek help is sometimes the best tonic for the problem.
Once a student-athlete agrees to get checked out, he or she should be referred expeditiously to a mental health care professional. If possible, help set up the initial appointment. Having an established relationship with counselling services or community mental health professionals is highly recommended to expedite referrals.
If student-athletes demonstrate or voice an imminent threat to themselves, others, or property (which, in many cases, rises to a code-of-conduct violation), or they report feeling out of control or unable to make sound decisions, then an emergent mental health referral is recommended. Reaching out to UBC Hospital Urgent Care, UBC Counselling Services, or even calling 911 is appropriate in crisis situations.
In addition, identify your concerns through the UBC Early Alert to enhance your support. Using your CWL credentials to log in, you can access the Early Alert system at the link below:
Institute to Promote Athlete Health & Wellness | UNCG [US]