Athletic trainers address mental health concerns among student-athletes with yoga sessions

Published by adviser, Author: Oscar Matous - Rocket Contributor, Date: March 31, 2018

Slippery Rock University student-athletes gathered to take part in a yoga session on Tuesday night in a dimly lit Morrow field house. The session, which drew twenty-some athletes, is the first of hopefully many yoga sessions that the Athletic Training will put on for student-athletes, SRU athletic trainer Stacy Arend said.

“We started doing these sessions because the NCAA as a whole has recently wanted colleges and universities to bring a focus to not just physical health, but mental health as well,” Arend said.

Arend stressed the importance of a collegiate athlete’s overall health and well being. She said that the athletic trainers collaborated together and decided to offer free 30-minute yoga sessions to all student-athletes at SRU on a monthly, if not weekly basis. Arend said that the athletic training department approached senior Zack Baynham to help lead the yoga sessions.

“We approached Zack and he accepted,” Arend said. “Zack is a student-athletic trainer for the university, so he knows what he is doing when it comes to leading these sessions.”

Baynham, 22 and an athletic training major at SRU, said he had been doing yoga on his own for many years. He said he got into it due to the numerous physical benefits as well as the mental benefits.

“Yoga is all about self-care,” he said. “I wish more people were into it because there are so many health benefits that they could receive from it.” According to the National College Athletic Association’s (NCAA) website, the NCAA is trying to improve access to mental health care for student-athletes. Collegiate athletes should be able to seek the same treatment for mental health-related issues, as they do for physical health-related issues, the website said.

Mental health awareness for collegiate athletes was brought to national attention in early 2017 when Northwestern University basketball player Jordan Hankins committed suicide inside her dorm room. Hankins, 19 at the time of her death, was reported to have been suffering from the pressures of being a Division I student-athlete.

A March 2017 publication from the American Psychological Association said that depression rates among collegiate athletes range from 15 percent to 21 percent. Collegiate athletes suffer from various “stressors” in addition to the common mental health disorders experienced by the college student, the publication said.

Arend and Baynham said they will do their part to help ensure that each SRU student-athlete is not just cared for physically but mentally as well.

“Our goal is to ensure that all of our student-athletes are taken care of,” Arend said.

A time or date for a second yoga session has not be confirmed.


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