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FINDING HOPE: Student-athletes and mental health

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FINDING HOPE: Student-athletes and mental health
Posted at 12:34 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 14:34:39-04

So many things in our lives have been canceled or postponed during the pandemic and it's no surprise it's taking a toll on our mental health. Now, many student-athletes are feeling those same effects, as schools and fall sports are being shut down.

"It's a concern because surveys throughout this pandemic have shown that student-athletes in particular, are showing rates of anxiety and depression that are steadily increasing, and rates of physical activity that are decreasing," said Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a clinical psychologist.

It's a combination that Dr. Beurkens says can cause some serious problems.

"People often underestimate how connected those two things are. But the research shows us over and over again, that getting some form of physical movement, physical activity or exercise in on a daily basis is critical for supporting our mental health and that's especially true for children and for teens."

So with many sports in a timeout, Dr. Beurkens says parents should be looking for signs of mental health issues.

"I think that if parents start to notice that their child is withdrawing more and more, not participating in things that they used to participate in, withdrawing more from the family, getting a lot more irritable, maybe feeling more anxious about things, expressing more hesitation to do things that they were comfortable doing, those are signs that anxiety or depression may be an issue."

She says keeping your kids active during this time is invaluable.

"So for kids still to be involved in physical activities around weight training practice, many of the schools are working on how to safely have kids together to continue to participate in drill train, in working on things that they work during the season, even though they won't be competing, that's a great way to provide not only structure but also those relational kinds of opportunities."

Above all else, Dr. Beurkens says keep talking.

"Open communication is one of the things that really helps kids to work through this type of challenging situations. So talking with them about how they`re feeling about the disappointment about the anger or maybe frustration they may be feeling and give them a healthy outlet about communicating about that is important."

It certainly is a tough time for all involved, and Dr. Beurkens mention one other thing to pass along. She says coaches are a big part of their player's lives, and keeping in touch with them despite a canceled or postponed season can go a long way.