The Reality Behind Mental Health In Student Athletes

The Reality Behind Mental Health In Student Athletes

Everyone deserves mental health days.
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As a student athlete I’m used to being viewed differently by my professors and peers. Now whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I’ll leave for you to decide. But being an athlete generally comes with stereotypes, and one I really want to focus on is that athletes don’t get depressed or suffer from depression because of our “mental toughness.” Today I stumbled upon an article the NCAA published at the end of 2014 and something in it really struck me.

“College students – including student-athletes – are not immune to struggles with mental well-being. About 30 percent of the 195,000 respondents to a recent American College Health Association (ACHA) survey reported having felt depressed in the last 12 months, and 50 percent reported having felt overwhelming anxiety during the same period.“ (http://www.ncaa.org/health-and-safety/sport-science-institute/mind-body-and-sport-depression-and-anxiety-prevalence-student-athletes)

I’ve grown up praising sports, basically, because they’ve been my life since I can remember, but this statistic really hits home. A team is a place where you feel safe, a group of people that feel like family. I trust my teammates and I know they have my back if I need them, and the same goes for them. That is what makes a team so special, you are always there for each other through the good and bad, but lately, I’ve noticed a lot of bad.

“If you’ve got anything going on or distracting you make sure you leave it off the field, don’t think about it during practice.”

I’ve heard a variation of that statement my entire athletic career.

Every coach I’ve ever had has always reiterated that statement to make sure when you’re at practice all you’re thinking about is practice.

They want all your attention given to the drill, they want you to focus on what you’re doing and they want you thinking only of what is going on in front of you.

Coaches don’t want you thinking about a loved one who just passed, a significant other who you just found out cheated on you or maybe that someone in your family just got diagnosed with cancer.

They don’t want you thinking about your real problems because you need to be mentally tough, so you should be able to handle that for two hours.

It doesn’t mean they don’t care, because outside of practice coaches are usually there for you to talk to; they understand some of the struggles you’re going through because they are human too. They've all gone through their own struggles, but with athletics, you don’t get a mental health day. It’s not a thing; you’re told to leave outside thoughts outside of practice and to not let it bother you for the time you're there.

When you have practice, you’re expected to be at practice. No matter how tired you are, no matter how down you are feeling in a particular week or no matter how stressed out you are, you still have to be there. You have to be there because during those two or three hours you should only be focusing on practice, which in my opinion, is a lot easier said than done.

This week I’ve noticed it greatly. I’ve seen teammates struggle and am noticing myself struggling. I know I’m tired, I know I’m stressed and would love to just have a small break, but that day off comes once a week. Usually when you are extremely drained and don’t want to accomplish anything, so you feel as if you almost always waste it.

Practicing every day is already hard enough mentally and physically, add in emotionally and mentally draining experiences and being expected to pretend they do not exist is a problem in my book.

Thirty percent of female student athletes are struggling with depression and those are only the ones who have been willing to admit they are struggling. If I took my team of 20 women, six out of 20 of us would statistically be depressed, and that number is extremely alarming.

Mental health is a serious issue, but we don’t treat it like it is because we can’t see it. We have trainers for all our other injuries whether it is a sprained ankle or a broken bone. Those injuries require some time off of practice because you can see the problem, but that’s not the same for mental illness because we can’t see that. With mental illness, we’re just expected to put our problems and our emotions on hold in order to do our best in practice for a day, when all we really want to do is just throw in the towel and call it quits. It takes a lot to act like you want to be there and it’s difficult when you’re expected to always be positive when all you’re positive about is that you need a break.

Sports don’t let you take a break. Maybe that's what makes us tough, but it also takes so much out of us, even though we continue to make the sacrifices time and time again because we love our sport. It makes us feel like we have to keep pushing when everything in us makes us want to stop more than anything. But we can’t. We’re just used to pushing through, we’re taught to keep playing and to ignore the pain, so we do.

Cover Image Credit: Greg Mizak

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13 Gross Things Girls Do That Boys Don't Know About

From a girl, about girls.
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There's always talk about how gross boys are all the time, it's now time to talk about how gross maybe even how much more disgusting girls can be. It may not even be disgusting, but just weird, but we are girls. What can we say?

1. Gorilla legs.

It's not that we don't want to...okay, that was a lie. Every girl can agree that they only shave during bathing suit season when you're wearing a dress, or when you're gonna get it on. Basically, If she shaves her legs you're special.

2. When did I last wash this bra again?

We wear the same exact bra, for days, and weeks, and who knows for how long.

3. It's not just the bra's, it's the pants too.

We wear jeans and leggings like twenty times before we think about washing them.

4. We don't wash our hair every day.

Because unwashed hair is the best styling hair. Also because looking good takes too much work.

5. We are always picking at our faces, especially pimples.

As soon as we walk by a mirror, its a must. Car mirrors are awesome to pop those suckers and pluck rampant eyebrow hairs. We pop pimples like its our job.

6. We will live in your clothes.

If you somehow let your significant other or friend wear your sweatshirt you're never getting it back... and she's never taking it off. Girls will wear that sh*t until your scent is gone because we love it.

7. We poop.

Believe it or not... it happens to us too. Women don't make it as much as a show as boys do. We hide it from you and will hold it until you're not around. And you've probably received a lot of selfies on the toilet.

8. The dreaded monthly gift.

Probably the most disgusting thing to ever happen to the human body. But everyone knows about menstruating, but most guys don't understand the other things that come along with it, like the cramps that bring period farts and the nasty bowel movements and blood clots.

9. Finding hair from our head in our butt cheeks.

Yeah, it's a thing. Your head hair crawls it's way down there occasionally.

10. We smell ourselves a lot.

We are super conscious about how we smell...especially down there.

11. We let it fly.

We will hold in our farts from you, but as soon as we are alone... that's a different story. You better hope we don't get too comfortable around you too quick.

12. Sometimes we have to improvise.

Sometimes mother nature likes to come when we aren't ready, or prepared with the supplies. There are numerous occasions where we start bleeding and have to create this bundle of toilet paper and just shove it down there.

13. Looking at our panties and trying to figure out what came out.

Sometimes you just don't know for sure.

Cover Image Credit: Buzz Feed Blue

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Grades K-12: What We WEREN'T Taught

They never taught the most important lessons.
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In my years of schooling, I've gone through preschool all the way into graduating my senior year. Yet, in all those years of education, I was never taught to love myself and why it was so important to do so.

In middle school, my friends and I were picked on frequently for our interests, our styles, who we were dating, and just overall who we were as people. One afternoon, we had a schoolwide JDRF diabetes walk. One of my best friends and her girlfriend were holding hands, while another friend and I had a conversation between the four of us.

A half hour into the walk, one of our peers came up to my friend and her girlfriend and began harassing her. They were asking inappropriate questions like, "How do you have sex?", or "Don't you feel disgusting?" They then slapped the third friend's butt.

We went inside and went directly to the principal. To avoid naming any names, we'll call her Dr. A. Being that Dr. A was a lesbian herself, with children, we thought that she would be more understanding. She certainly was not.

We explained the situation to her, to which she replied with, "It's your fault; you can't expect people to not make fun of you when you have two girls holding hands. You should have known better." We then explained the situation of the third friend being inappropriately slapped, to which she replied again, "She should have known better as well."

That was the day I was taught that keeping the other students appeased was more important than our safety.

In high school, I dated someone who didn't go to school with us and lost a lot of friends in the process. From sophomore year up until the day I graduated, I came to school crying. I left school crying. I cried during school. I stopped participating in school clubs, and I started going to the library instead of lunch.

No one said anything.

I never had anyone ask if I was okay. I was never asked if I needed help. I was in a toxic relationship for two years and never was I asked if I needed someone. Getting out of that relationship was the best decision I could have ever made for myself.

That was the time I was taught that minding your own business was more important than the well-being of others.

Throughout our schooling, we as women are ridiculed by the way that we dress and the way that we act. We are pulled out of class because our shoulders are showing or because our bra straps are showing. God forbid, we wouldn't want anyone to know that women wear bras, while the male students are walking around schools with their pants around their ankles.

We are constantly taught that keeping THEM focused is more important than OUR education.

I spent years trying to find who I am, spiritually and physically. I spent years trying to remove the bullet like insults from my skin that had shot at me for years. Yet, it was a lesson that I had to learn by myself.

No one in my days of education taught me that I was important. No one in school taught my friends and I that it was okay to defend ourselves. We were taught to think identically, to memorize the material on the next text. Sit up straight, never speak out of turn, raise your hand, and never question what you're being told.

Never in our years of education were we taught how to love ourselves.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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