Jan 29, 2015
Spotlighting Athlete Mental Health

With much of the focus on student-athlete care centered on the physical aspect, the issue of mental health, including handling stress and depression, sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves. But a new pilot program at the University of Michigan called “Athletes Connected” aims to make sure student-athlete mental health is not overlooked.
According to an article on the University of Michigan website:

  • Designed to remove the stigma attached to mental illnesses while raising awareness and providing solutions, the program is a collaboration between the University of Michigan School of Public Health, the school’s Depression Center, and the athletic department, and is funded by an NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant.
  • The program combines support groups for current Michigan student-athletes as well as videos created by two former athletes detailing their personal struggles.
  • Former swimmer Kally Fayhee says the goal of the project is to “help you realize mental health and wellness is an all-encompassing thing.”

Will Heininger, a former defensive lineman for the University of Michigan football team who overcame his own mental health challenges when he was a student with the help of Michigan Athletic Trainer Lenny Navitskis, is a driving force behind Athletes Connected. Heininger told mgoblue.com that after first sharing his story at the U-M Depression on College Campuses Conference, he left a job in finance in Chicago to become involved with the initiative and is contemplating making it his life’s work.

“My mom said, when I was struggling, ‘I know you don’t think you’re going to get better. But you have to trust me, and trust people who have come through the other side, that you are going to get better. I know it doesn’t feel that way.’ It was so hard to believe her. But, look, I did get better. I made it my job to. I allowed other people to help. And now I can confidently say my life is better than it ever was before I had suffered from depression. To understand what had happened and why, that’s invaluable. And to be able to help other people … it’s a pretty good deal.”

More details about the program can be found here.

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