Courtesy of College of Maryland Athletics
From the skin, it appeared as if Taylor Ligouri had the self-described “good” life. She was surrounded by a supportive and loving household, loyal pals and was taking part in softball at her dream faculty, the College of Maryland.
However on the within, issues had been a lot completely different.
She was battling raging despair, obsessive-compulsive dysfunction and anxiousness.
“I actually fell right into a darkish place,” she mentioned. “I used to be struggling and but nobody knew I used to be.”
Ligouri is one in all hundreds of student-athletes every year who expertise psychological well being struggles, that are significantly prevalent amongst collegiate student-athletes. In accordance with the American School of Sports activities Medication, despair impacts about 7% of as we speak’s grownup inhabitants however ranges from 15 to 21% amongst collegiate student-athletes.
Senior Lecturer Dr. Elizabeth Brown has taught on the College of Maryland for over 4 a long time. Her experience is in each sports activities psychology and academic psychology whereas her focus contains the pressures kids face in youth sport.
She says the potential of being sidelined as a result of harm is likely one of the main causes faculty athletes battle with their psychological well being.
“Every single day they go to apply they usually see athletic trainers engaged on injured athletes and it’s a reminder that this could possibly be you,” she mentioned. “Will somebody come alongside and substitute you at your place [if you are injured]?”
Accidents contributed to Ligouri’s psychological well being decline. In a first-person essay wherein she disclosed her struggles with psychological well being, Ligouri mentioned she felt as if “my life was crumbling in entrance of my eyes” after she underwent surgical procedure and was sidelined from softball.
When discussing the psychological well being hurdles many student-athletes face, It is very important distinguish the rigorous schedule of collegiate athletes in comparison with that of an everyday faculty pupil. Whether or not it’s the offseason or in-season, the bodily and psychological duties are extraordinarily taxing.
“We’ve morning exercises the place we’ve got to get up early, afternoon homework and pushing by means of the exhaustion and determining methods to get every thing executed and managing your time properly,” College of Maryland softball participant Trinity Schlotterbeck mentioned. “It’s determining methods to stability every thing after which pushing by means of these psychological pressures, taking part in, doing properly at practices and making an attempt to go residence and stability that college life.”
The onset of COVID-19 made issues worse.
Ligouri described it as “most likely the worst factor that might have ever occurred to me,” she wrote. The then-freshman was caught at residence, away from pals and stripped of the sport she liked, softball. “I used to be at residence the whole time, being in my room…which isn’t essentially the most splendid factor to do, particularly for somebody as lively as a pupil athlete,” she mentioned.
Ligouri was not alone. A November and December 2021 NCAA survey of almost 10,000 student-athletes throughout all collegiate ranges confirmed that charges of reported psychological well being considerations had been 1 1/2 to 2 occasions larger than previous to 2020.
Collegiate athletic departments’ lack of psychological well being assets additionally performs a job within the student-athlete psychological well being disaster and furthers the long-standing stigma to not search assist.
Fewer than half of scholars surveyed by the NCAA felt they’d be comfy personally searching for assist from a psychological well being supplier on campus whereas solely about 50% of athletes reported that coaches take psychological well being considerations of their student-athletes significantly.
“Once I first got here right here [University of Maryland] and for many years there was no sports activities psychologist employed by the athletic division. Nonetheless, there are quite a lot of coaches who don’t actually worth sure psychology,” Brown mentioned. “There’s a stigma many occasions connected to an athlete who searches out a sports activities psychologist they usually’re afraid of what the coach and different gamers would possibly assume.”
Headed in the precise route
With the elevated consideration in direction of sports activities psychology, extra college students are going into the sphere. This has helped athletes change into extra comfy in seeing sports activities psychologists, Brown mentioned.
She recognized two components that may enhance the psychological well being scenario in faculty athletics. Spectators should keep away from glorifying the athletes and count on them to be good. “We will’t put them on a perfectionistic pedestal. They’re going to have issues and we’ve got to acknowledge that,” she mentioned. “That doesn’t take away from their athletic potential.”
Brown places the accountability of enhancing athletes’ psychological well being on athletic departments. “They need to remember that these youngsters are struggling. It has to come back from the highest,” she mentioned. “From the college to the athletic director to the coaches to all people else who helps a student-athlete.”
Maryland softball coach Mark Montgomery is a robust proponent of guaranteeing his gamers are in the precise way of thinking. “The primary half is ensuring they don’t outline themselves by their sport. It’s a part of what they do however not who they’re,” Montgomery mentioned.
“In case you have a nasty day on the workplace, strike out a number of occasions, make an error or two, it doesn’t imply we don’t love you, it doesn’t imply we don’t care. It doesn’t imply if we don’t play you the following sport it’s as a result of you’re a dangerous particular person.”
As for Ligouri, she sought assist and climbed out of the self-described “darkest moments of my life.” She advocates for others fighting their psychological well being to do the identical.
“I went to go see a therapist, I talked to pals, I went on medicine,” the senior mentioned.
“Issues that most individuals don’t wish to speak about, speaking about it’s the solely strategy to get individuals to do it.”