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Athletes Connected

Many student-athletes experience mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety, just like their fellow students who are not varsity athletes. However, for a variety of reasons, student-athletes are often more reluctant than their campus peers to seek help. A recent study shows that while only 1 in 3 college students with depression or anxiety will access mental health services, this number drops dramatically to 1 in 10 for student-athletes who are struggling with a mental health concern.

To address this issue, the University of Michigan developed the Athletes Connected initiative with initial funding from an NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice grant.

The Athletes Connected initiative is a unique collaboration between the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Depression Center, and Athletic Department which aims to eliminate the stigma of mental illness while improving the well-being of student-athletes at the University of Michigan, and beyond.

Athletes Connected is designed to reach student-athletes wherever they may be on the "wellness continuum" – from those who have no previous understanding or awareness of these issues, to those who are looking for mental health promotion and prevention strategies (e.g. stress-reduction, resilience building) which can help them become better prepared to excel both athletically and academically, to those who may be in need of additional support and/or formal clinical care. 

Through a comprehensive approach involving student engagement, targeted interventions, and scientific research, Athletes Connected equips student-athletes with the evidence-based skills and support they need to increase their emotional health and be successful in athletics, academics, and all other aspects of their lives.

Program Components:

  • Brief, engaging videos and other media which feature former and current U-M student-athletes, to help reduce stigma and encourage help-seeking;
  • Informational and skill-based presentations for coaches, athletic department staff, and student-athletes;
  • Informal, drop-in support groups designed to specifically address the unique concerns of student-athletes;
  • Research to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts and advance our understanding of how best to support and improve the mental health of student-athletes.

Snapshot of NCAA-funded Pilot Program Findings

  • 63% of the student-athletes reported that emotional or mental health issues had affected their athletic performance in the last 4 weeks
  • 99% of the student-athletes indicated that they found the testimonial videos engaging and relevant
  • Reported higher likelihood to discuss mental health issues with teammates

Future Goals

  • Ongoing engagement of student-athletes, coaches, and athletic department staff to solicit input regarding program components;
  • Production of additional digital content for student-athletes to access on demand;
  • Research on the links between emotional well-being and athletic/academic performance
  • Ongoing wellness education, training, and support.

Ultimately, student-athletes who have learned positive coping strategies, understand how to manage their mental health, and are willing to access support resources when needed will be better equipped to achieve their goals and be successful at Michigan, and beyond.

To learn more, please visit the Athletes Connected website