How student athletes deal with mental health issues

Third year Bailey Andrews remembers suffering a panic attack right before one of her first collegiate rugby games.

“I didn’t know what to do, I was just freaking out for no reason. I felt suffocated cause I had everything on me. I just had to take it all off and I stood there shaking,” said Andrews.

Over the past three years, Andrews has been learning how to deal with her anxiety attacks. She and other fellow student athletes have begun to talk about it, but that doesn’t make managing homework, practice, training and her social life any easier.

Deidra Jones, captain of the volleyball team at STU, realized she suffered from depression and anxiety in her second year of university. Since then she has found ways to cope. She schedules ahead, keeps busy and has a good support system.

Andrews and Jackson both agree that sports have helped them to deal with their mental health issues. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

“It’s hard, sometimes I struggle and the girls can probably tell when I struggle but that’s okay. At least they know I’m human,” said Jones.

Even so, Jones has days when she’s unable to keep her focus on the game. It could be a distraction from the crowd, it could be an overwhelming workload, a recurring thought or a test coming up.

“Sometimes you need a minute, but in a game, you don’t get a minute,” said Jones.

Despite it all, Andrews and Jones say they’ve never thought about quitting athletics.

“I really enjoy the student athlete life. It is something I have done since forever,” Andrews says. “I just think that people don’t always understand the full story.”

Student athletes are bound to experience more pressure and anxiety than the average student. They are often held to higher standards. Luckily, they have a strong support system to lean on when times get tough.

“It creates bonds on a different level, on and off the field,” said Andrews. “I know if something goes wrong the girls always have my back.”

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