WHAT I DO: “I don’t work alone. We have a multi-disciplinary treatment team that involves psychologists, clinical psychologists, therapists, sports nutritionists, and sports performance specialists that assist us in every facet of mental health and wellness. One of the important reasons we do what we do is because between the age of 18 to 25, every mental illness has its beginnings. Kids are already vulnerable, and then you place them on this big stage to play a big sport and deal with being away from home where your support systems are and negotiating relationships, school, and career, it is a very perplexing time for young adults. We have to have the mental health piece to make sure that we address, very accurately, what’s going on with them, emotionally.”
HOW DOES THE STAFF DESTIGMATIZE THE NEED FOR MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL CARE?
“We make it very plain and appropriate to everyone who is here, and that it’s OK to seek this help. We have a confidential approach to allow any student-athlete that feels they have an issue to come and talk with us. We also have access vis-à-vis, our internet, and other resources to make sure that we provide direct information to our student-athletes about various harms reduction issues, whether it’s dealing with depression or dealing with suicide, or anxiety, or performance issues, or sleep, or recovery from injury, which is a really big issue we’re dealing with in our student-athlete population.”
HOW DOES THE STAFF IDENTIFY STUDENT-ATHLETES WHO MAY NEED THESE SERVICES IF THEY DON’T COME FORWARD ON THEIR OWN FOR HELP?
“Our eyes and ears involve our athletic trainers, who are very much involved with what we do with our multi-disciplinary treatment team. They’re trained to recognize some of those signs and symptoms of a burgeoning mental illness, whether it’s anxiety, difficulty with sleep or relationships issues or anger problems. Once it’s identified, we make the appropriate referrals so that my team can get involved and intervene early?
ARE THERE ANY TOOLS THAT YOU USE THAT SOME FOLKS MAY NOT BE AWARE?
“We have number of tools. We have a clinical psychologist, for example. Not only do we have the clinical aspect of what’s going on, we also have psychological testing where it’s needed to evaluate conditions such as attention deficit disorder. We’ve diagnosed several student-athletes with A.D.D. that have never been recognized before as they enter their college years. (Identifying) that has a very positive effect on their academic and their athletic careers.
“We also educate them about what is available, and what we can do as a program to support them.”
WHERE DOES SOUTH CAROLINA STAND IN TERMS OF WHAT IT OFFERS FOR MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL CARE OF STUDENT-ATHLETES?
“We’re certainly above the curve. I’m a psychiatrist, but we also have a number of clinical psychologists that also help support what we do in terms of treatment, diagnostics, and the like, which I would put ahead of most (athletics) programs.”
WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO GOOD PSYCHOLOGICAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH FOR A STUDENT-ATHLETE?
“We know that hormonal effects and neuro development lead you to what you have between those ages. The things that we can impact and change are things like socialization, education about relationships, time management, recognizing things like sleep issues and sleep difficulties, anxiety conditions that can really hamper one’s performance both on and off the field. It’s those things we can have the biggest impact on. You can’t change genetics, but you can change the psycho/social part of mental illness.”