Student-athletes face unique pressures, both on and off the field.
But research has found athletes are far less likely than other college students to seek help for mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
Jevon Moore wants to change that. Moore joined Stateside’s Cynthia Canty to discuss his efforts to shift the culture of college athletics and increase awareness of mental health resources.
During his undergraduate years, Moore played football at North Carolina State. Now, he is pursuing a Master's in Social Work at the University of Michigan and working with the university’s Athletes Connected program, a collaboration between UM Athletics, the School of Public Health, and the Depression Center.
When a student-athlete arrives on a campus like Michigan’s, Moore says they are immediately introduced to a large circle of individuals looking over them — coaches, trainers, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nutritionists.
Moore said this can be overwhelming as athletes begin to look around and try to figure out who is in their corner and who they can trust. Many of the people in a student athlete's life are focused on helping athletes get rid of their weaknesses and increase their strength. So it can be especially confusing to seek help if you are experiencing mental weaknesses.
A large part of Moore’s job is letting athletes know he is an individual they can turn to for mental health help. Moore says he has personal experience struggling to find a balance between athletics, schoolwork, and family. He remembers nights during college where he would come home and sit on his bed wondering “what just happened today?”
“In those moments, that’s where we're trying to teach this awareness of 'we can help with you understanding what you're dealing with in your head, we can help you understand your relationships, your support networks,' those things," Moore said.
While specific techniques vary, Moore says he always begins by helping athletes identify where they are having trouble coping.
“Depression is something that we know is happening all around the country, we know it happens to everyone in some extent, but the thing that we’re really struggling with is people actually being able to get outside their head. They don’t usually get back to identifying the stress that got them there,” Moore said.
Then Moore helps individuals set a goal, and determine how they want to manage this.
“A lot of times, we ride around in our own minds thinking that we're the passenger,” Moore said. “My brain is telling me what to do, I’ve just got to follow it. Like I'm having this feeling, I can't do anything with it, I’m just feeling this way. A lot of times, we can get back in that driver's seat and say 'you know what, I want to feel differently, let's feel differently.'”
Moore understands not everyone will be willing to talk with him the moment they walk in the door, so he focuses his efforts on breaking down stigmas around mental health, and letting students know when they are ready to reach out, Athletes Connected will be there for them.
Minding Michigan is Stateside’s ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Sophie Sherry.