This study sought to identify factors that influence whether coaches support athletes struggling with depression and anxiety. Participants were U.S. public high school coaches who completed a written survey assessing their experiences, attitudes, and behaviors related to student-athlete mental health (n = 190 coaches, 92% response rate). Around two-thirds of coaches were concerned about mental health issues among the students they coached. They were more likely to extend help to a struggling athlete if they were aware of their school’s mental health plan and had greater confidence related to helping, including feeling confident in their ability to identify symptoms of mental health disorders. Mental health professionals, including sport psychologists who work with or consult with coaches, are well positioned to help provide coaches with the education necessary to be able to support and encourage care seeking by athletes who are struggling with anxiety or depression.
Emily Kroshus, Sara P.D. Chrisman, David Coppel, and Stanley Herring
Florence Lebrun, Áine MacNamara, Dave Collins, and Sheelagh Rodgers
Little is known about the coping strategies used by elite athletes suffering from mental health issues. Therefore, this study examined coping strategies implemented by elite athletes facing clinical depression. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four elite athletes and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results present a broad picture of how elite athletes tried to cope with depression using a range of coping strategies. Among the different strategies highlighted, talking, seeking professional help and social support were particularly emphasized by the participants. Surprisingly, however, only one participant reported transferring the skills and strategies learned on her way to the top to many other aspects of her everyday life such as coping with her depression. Findings, therefore, suggest that athletes should be encouraged to transfer and make the most of the skills learned throughout their sport career to deal with their daily life. Future research perspectives and implications are discussed.
Philp Sullivan, Jessica Murphy, and Mishka Blacker
Mental health literacy (MHL), the knowledge and attitudes that aid in recognition, management and prevention of mental health issues, could help maintain positive mental health within the athletic community. As coaches and athletic therapists (ATs) frequently and routinely interact with athletes, this study focused on the MHL of these individuals. Eighty participants (24 females, 54 males; 57 coaches, 18 ATs) completed an on-line version of the MHL Scale. Average MHL score was 131.48, which, is relatively equal to scores seen in university students and a general population. No significant difference was detected between coaches and ATs but females reported significantly higher MHL scores than males. There was a significant negative correlation between MHL and total experience. These results have potentially strong clinical ramifications as increased MHL in this context can affect facilitators and barriers towards seeking help in a high-risk population.
Hannah Butler-Coyne, Vaithehy Shanmuganathan-Felton, and Jamie Taylor
Equestrian media is showing an increasing interest in the impact of mental health on performance and general wellbeing of equestrian athletes. This study explores the awareness of mental health difficulties and psychological wellbeing within equestrian sport from the perspectives of equestrian athletes, instructors/coaches and parents. The exploratory nature of the research offered opportunity to use a dual approach including e-surveys and semi-structured interviews. Analysis of the qualitative data identified five key themes (Emotional Wellbeing in Balance; Emotional Wellbeing Imbalance; Wellbeing Imbalance—Impact on Equestrian Sportspeople; Impact of Equestrian Sport on Wellbeing; Regaining Balance) and 22 sub-themes. The findings determine a compelling need for education, promotion of sharing experiences, facilitation of specialist (clinical and sport) professional training and intervention as well as a review of regulations from equestrian Governing Bodies.
Sara L. Giovannetti, Jessica R.G. Robertson, Heather L. Colquhoun, and Cindy K. Malachowski
University student-athletes are equally vulnerable to mental health challenges compared to their non-athlete peers, but they access mental health services with less frequency. This study sought to explore the mental health issues experienced by Canadian student-athletes in order to address the question: how can Canadian universities better meet the mental health needs of student-athletes? An electronic survey was distributed to student-athletes at a large Canadian university. Data from 113 respondents were analyzed using descriptive statistics and content analysis. Stress and pressure were reported as the most prevalent contributors to mental health issues, and 47% of respondents indicated that there was a time in which they wanted to seek services for their mental health, but chose not to. Respondents identified mental health education for coaches and designating a healthcare professional within the athletic department as beneficial resources. Findings from this study can inform local and national mental health service planning for student-athletes.
Breanna Drew and James Matthews
The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms within student-athletes and to examine protective factors which may act as a buffer against mental ill-health. A cross-sectional design was employed. A sample of 185 student-athletes (M = 20.77; SD = .50; 35% female) agreed to take part. Participants completed measures of depression, anxiety, psychological resilience and formal and informal help-seeking behavior. Thirty one percent of student-athletes reported moderate to severe symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Student-athletes who reported requiring professional help for problems were more likely to record moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety. Student-athletes who did not seek informal support were more likely to report symptom levels for depression outside the normal range. Higher resilience scores were associated with lower symptom reporting for both depression and anxiety. Practical implications for supporting student-athletes’ mental health across institutional, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels are discussed.
Misia Gervis, Helen Pickford, and Thomas Hau
The purpose of this study was to investigate counselors’ professional understanding of the long-term psychological consequences of injury in UK football players. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 counselors who were registered to work for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). The interviews examined the counselors’ perception of the relationship between long-term injury and presenting mental health issues, the antecedents to those mental health issues, and recommendations for psychological intervention following injury. The critical finding was the mental health problems regularly presented to PFA counselors were often the psychological and behavioral consequences of long-term injury. Counselors recommended that early and sustained psychological intervention with long-term injured players would act as a preventative measure against future mental health issues.
Robert C. Hilliard, Lorenzo A. Redmond, and Jack C. Watson II
Although factors involved with help-seeking have been widely studied in the general college population, college student-athletes have received less attention. The purpose of this study was to examine the moderating role of self-compassion on the relationship between public and self-stigma, and how self-stigma was associated with attitudes toward seeking counseling. A sample of 243 student-athletes from NCAA Divisions I and III participated in the study. Using structural equation modeling, self-compassion was not found to moderate the relationship between public and self-stigma. However, public stigma was positively associated with self-stigma, and self-stigma was negatively associated with attitudes toward counseling. A multigroup analysis did not find differences between males and females for the model. The results of this study have implications for professionals who work with college student-athletes and suggest that efforts should aim to reduce stigma and examine alternative factors that might improve attitudes toward mental health help-seeking.
Susanna Kola-Palmer, Samantha Buckley, Gabrielle Kingston, Jonathan Stephen, Alison Rodriguez, Nicole Sherretts, and Kiara Lewis
Player welfare is an important development in supporting elite athletes during their professional careers. Little is known about how player engagement with player welfare provision impact on mental health. Over two consecutive years, professional rugby football league (RFL) players were invited to complete an anonymous online survey assessing psychological stress, athletic identity, and attitudes to player welfare provision. Findings indicate that nearly half of respondents experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Multivariate analyses suggest that higher psychological stress and athletic identity and less knowledge and less positive attitudes to RFL mental health support is associated with worse mental health, whereas older age is associated with better mental health. The study has identified some key variables to focus on in developing player care and support management, and also suggest directions for future research guiding player welfare support, especially regarding increasing positive attitudes to mental health supports.