Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States (U.S.) since 1949. Currently, in the U.S., more than 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness. With mental health illnesses on the rise, focusing the conversation on mental health in sports is becoming increasingly important.
Athletes are more likely to experience increased stressors related to performance, which may lead to compromised mental health. Athletic Trainers (ATs) are key players in supporting athlete health and are trained to prevent, diagnose, treat, and support athletes' recovery from injuries. While ATs are not trained to treat mental health illnesses, they are often the first line of defense available to athletes.
ATs play a unique role in supporting athlete's mental health. They spend significant time with their athletes, developing rapport and building trust. Currently, athletic training education programs rarely discuss the topic of mental health among athletes; thus, ATs aren't receiving proper mental health education, which could hugely benefit athlete well-being.
So, how can ATs incorporate mental health support into their practice?
- Simply start by having conversations with athletes about mental health
- Incorporate mental health assessments in pre-participation questionnaires to identify at-risk athletes
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health illnesses
- Create standardized documentation processes to capture mental health illness signs and symptoms
- Know how to refer athletes to appropriate mental health professionals
Click here to learn more about the role of athletic trainers and mental health illnesses in athletes.
- Cormier ML, Zizzi SJ. Athletic Trainers' Skills in Identifying and Managing Athletes Experiencing Psychological Distress. J Athl Train. 2015 Dec;50(12):1267-76. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.12.02. Epub 2015 Nov 24. PMID: 26599960; PMCID: PMC4741252.
- Ostrovecky, K. (2017, September 17). The Role of Athletic Trainers and Mental Health Illnesses in Athletes. Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer. https://bocatc.org/newsroom/the-role-of-athletic-trainers-and-mental-health-illnesses-in-athletes?category_key=at
- Role of athletic trainers in supporting athletes' mental health. University of Idaho. (2023, April 13). https://atp.uidaho.edu/blog/the-role-of-athletic-trainers-in-supporting-the-mental-health-of-athletes/#:~:text=Athletic%20trainers%20are%20in%20a,even%20friendships%20with%20their%20athletes.
- S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Mental illness. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness