Student Athletes and Mental Health Stigma
Crazy. Broken. Weak. These might be some of the words that come to mind when people think about going to counseling. They think it means that something is “wrong” with them; that they are lesser because they cannot do it on their own; that no one else has struggled as they are. For a student-athlete, these beliefs can be magnified. The perception (and expectation) of student-athletes is that they perform at a high level and are excelling at everything they do. When this is not achieved all the time (because they are human, after all!), a student-athlete might jump to the conclusion they are a failure. Student-athletes have the additional pressure of being in the public spotlight and subjected to outside opinions regarding their “worth” to the team. Being under this microscope might cause them to wonder, “What would all of these people think if they knew I needed help?” These types of thoughts, beliefs, and fears can limit a student-athlete’s willingness to seek the help of a counselor or performance enhancement specialist. Framing the utilization of these services as a sign of strength and of building resilience can break down this stigma to help a student-athlete develop the skills and tools to reach their full potential as a person, as a student, and as an athlete.
Aubrette M. Kinne, Ph.D.
Staff Therapist, University of Iowa Athletics Department