Student athletes in college sports are often trained to deal with a level of pressure and time management that is well above the norm, and for those who suffer from mental illness, required tasks can be crippling in many different ways.
At Humber College, there are a number of options in place for athletes seeking help, and an athletic department that strives to be prepared to help students with any issues that may arise.
The athletic wing at Humber College’s North campus is home to the Varsity Athletic Center, where student athletes can do everything from getting their daily workout in to meeting with friends or working on homework and end of year assignments. They can also seek out counselling on any one of their possible needs as a student.
Asking for help related to mental illness can sometimes be one of these needs, and Varsity athletic coordinator Monique Haan has seen a steady increase in student athletes coming forward in recent years.
“I’ve been in my role for about five years full-time, and then previous to that about three or four years, and I feel like mental health awareness has definitely increased in terms of the last few years,” Haan said. “It’s not as much of a stigma to try and keep it under wraps.”
Because of the uptick in students coming forward with mental health issues, not just student athletes alone, the college has taken measures to ensure that each student has available assistance should they desire or require it.
“We have initial conversations at the beginning of the semester where we do a one on one with all of our first-year athletes to kind of see how they’re settling into school, making sure they’re going to be academically successful,” Haan said. “In there, we ask a few probing questions, like whether or not they need to seek any additional support services, like the Health Centre or the test centre. It could be counselling or accessible learning.
“Sometimes, if athletes are willing, they may divulge (having problems) at that point in time, and from there we will go and refer them to either the Health Centre or Accessible Learning Centre.”
Haan said that she had gone through an experience with one athlete who was afraid of not being able to play because of a mental heath issue, but that was related to course completion and grades rather than exclusion from coaches and teammates.
“I actually don’t think it’s because of a fear of losing their spot…I think maybe it’s because they think they can deal with it on their own, and maybe that they don’t think it is as serious as it is.”
The use of available facilities at Humber has increased substantially, with students often needing to book appointments ahead of time in order to receive treatment.