The Prevalence of Mental Health Conditions Among High School and Collegiate Student-Athletes: A Systematic Review

in Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology
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  • 1 Springfield College
  • | 2 Mercy College
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The physical impacts of overtraining, sport specification, and burnout are well documented in the literature; however, the state of the student-athlete’s (SA’s) mental health is something that needs to be investigated more comprehensively. Literature on SA mental health has gained prevalence within the last 5 years. The combination of pressure from sport and academics, as well as the stigmatization of clinical mental health treatment, can have a significant effect on the SA’s psyche. This review explores the prevalence of mental health conditions (MHCs) in high school and collegiate SAs. This includes signs and symptoms of mental health diagnoses to include substance- and alcohol-related addictive disorders and risk factors of such. A systematic review of the CINAHL, ERIC, SPORTDiscus, APA PsycINFO, and Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine resource databases was conducted. The initial search yielded 855 results. Following double screening, 22 studies were included, all of which were deemed medium to high quality. The findings indicate an alarming presence of MHCs ranging from risk factors of alcohol use and major depressive disorders among SAs. There was a high prevalence of mental health issues among SAs who are Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ). In most cases, participation in competitive athletics (varsity) did not contribute to additional MHCs for SAs. Sport psychologists should play a role in mental health programming within athletic departments. Athletic departments should develop proactive, targeted strategies to address MHCs for SAs.

J.E. Kaishian is with the Department of Physical Education, Performance and Sport Leadership, Springfield College, Springfield, MA, USA. R.M. Kaishian is with the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, USA.

J.E. Kaishian (jkaishian@springfield.edu) is corresponding author.
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