Board of Regents addresses student-athlete mental health – The Daily Evergreen

WSU has the fewest number of clinicians on Pac-12 athletic staff


Jenny Kraska, a postdoctoral fellow in athletic psychology, said that starting this year, a counseling session limit has been imposed on student-athletes.

A WSU staff member told Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting that mental health issues such as anxiety and depression were higher in the spring and fall of 2020 than in previous years among students. -athletes, the pandemic being an important cause.

“Student-athletes have unique stressors that students in general may not face, including the high demand for their sport and the balance between sports and academics and their lives on the outside,” said Jenny Kraska, postdoctoral fellow in athletic psychology.

Representatives from WSU Athletics spoke to the board about the issue at their meeting on Thursday. Kraska said mental health services are underutilized by student-athletes compared to other students.

Kraska said that as a former student-athlete, she understood that the attitude towards mental health for many student-athletes was that they should absorb it and not let their mental health issues affect them.

“A lot of times there’s this kind of belief that they might be weak or that seeking mental health therapy or treatment might impact how their team views them, how their coach perceives them, resents them in a way,” she said.

Kraska said part of the way people can reduce the stigma against mental health is to talk about it and normalize seeking help. The WSU Crisis Line is a resource available to students.

Kraska said she attended a monthly mental health coordination focus group as a WSU representative, along with representatives from other Pac-12 schools, to discuss their mental health programs among themselves.

“We talk about the programs we offer, the services we provide, just to brainstorm and consult with each other and make sure we adapt to a rapidly changing world,” she said.

Because there is an increase in demand, Kraska said she would like to see more staff equipped to handle the mental health of student-athletes. Currently, she is the only full-time staff clinician in the athletic departments; this is the lowest number in the Pac-12.

“We want to be able to meet where the other Pac-12 schools are right now,” she said. “The average is 2-3 full-time clinicians.”

Kraska said that starting this year, a limit on counseling sessions has been imposed on student-athletes, in part due to the understaffing they face.

“We follow a general rule of 12 sessions,” she said. “It’s also central to the student council. However, we are able to handle it on a case by case basis. »

Kraska said they could extend the 12 sessions if there was a student-athlete who needed more mental health help than the others.

One of the best things that can be done to eliminate the stigma of mental health care is for student-athletes to meet those providing mental health care early, she said.

“Before this academic year, because there were more staff, athletes were required as part of their physical screening and prior to participation, they had to meet with one of the mental health doctors,” Kraska said. “Due to the lack of personnel, we didn’t have much time to do it.”

Additionally, Shelby McKay, associate director of athletic, staff and student-athlete development, said she’s noticed a strong culture of student-athletes wanting to talk about mental health, which is beneficial to those providing mental health services. mental health on campus.

“I have a lot of students who come to me saying, ‘Who is this person I go to to help me talk about my mental health issues?’, and so it’s easy to direct them” , McKay said. “They’re usually not shy to talk about it.”

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