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Arizona Wildcats: Athletes Use Mental Health Services & Campaigns

Arizona Wildcats

Mental Health Awareness a Key Focus for Arizona Wildcats Athletes

The University of Arizona is just one of many institutions across the United States that has worked tirelessly to end the stigma against mental health.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five American adults experience a mental illness, and one in 20 endure “serious mental illness.” Furthermore, 17 percent of youths (ages 6 to 17) experience “a mental health disorder.”

Wildcats athletes have worked extremely hard in advocacy throughout the years. Arizona has made it a priority to ensure their athletes are being taken care of not just physically, but mentally as well.

The Arizona wildcats men’s and women’s basketball teams have been among the best in the country throughout the 2021-22 season. The men’s team has a 22-2 record entering the third week of February, while the women’s team comes in at 18-4.

The men’s team currently has the third-best odds of winning the 2022 national championship, behind only Gonzaga and Kentucky. Several sportsbooks in Arizona are offering promo codes for customers up to $1,000 in risk-free bets.

Thanks to campaigns, resources and counseling at the university, Wildcats athletes know the importance of taking care of themselves mentally. And several athletes at the school have used their voices to help break the stigma.

By supplying these resources, the University of Arizona ensures that their athletes are getting the best possible mental treatment.

In 2019, women’s basketball forward Sam Thomas penned a letter that addressed mental health. It included the following two paragraphs:

We are student-athletes. We compete at the highest levels of our sport and under the brightest of lights. The pressure of the game can be a lot. Being a college student has a lot of demands. Mental health isn’t just a student-athlete issues because there are millions of Americans going through something.

The national conversation about emotional, psychological and social wellbeing is changing. Professional and Olympic athletes from around the world are speaking about the importance of this issue. How athletes handle the pressure of their sport and of life is also changing.

Arizona Wildcats

Thomas ended the letter with the following:

“C.A.T.S. mental health services are part of the foundation of the student-athlete experience at the University of Arizona. We have resources to help us live the Wildcat Way. We are Wildcats and we are all in this together.”

In Oct. 2020, then-Wildcats forward Trinity Baptiste shared several important messages regarding the well-being of athletes.

“Just as much as we train our bodies and work out every day, I think it’s important for us to really work on our mental (side), as well,” Baptiste said. “Because you can look at someone and see that they’re strong — maybe admire them and watch them play and think, ‘Wow, they have everything going for themselves.’ But you never know what’s going on inside.

“I think that’s something that we need to talk about more, erase stigmas and have everyone comfortable speaking about it.”

One small gesture Baptiste did to ensure her teammates were doing fine mentally? She made it a priority to call them, noting that it was the freshmen “especially.”

Baptiste would offer messages of encouragement to the players, letting her teammates know that she was “proud of” them. Simply checking in on a friend at any given time can go a long way in letting them know that they are loved and cared for.

Baptiste made an effort to push this message, surely inspiring her teammates, friends and family to do the same.

University of Arizona’s Mental Health Campaigns & Resources

In Oct. 2020, Arizona Athletics launched a Mental Health Awareness Campaign. Dr. Rachel Webb, the Assistant Athletic Director of Sport Psychology and Wellness at the school, discussed the goal of the campaign.

Part of Webb’s role is to provide the necessary mental health assistance for the school’s athletes. Webb also works with coaches relating to athletic performances and health.

“The hope for this campaign is ultimately to normalize the conversation, right?,” Webb said on the Mental Health Awareness Campaign. “Especially for student athletes who seem to have a bigger stigma around mental health, just the way that that culture has brought us up and so the more that we can talk about it, the more that we feel comfortable having these conversations.”

Michelle Skog, a mental health counselor at Arizona, added in the campaign that they offer both individual and group counseling .

“We also meet with coaches and the trainers and we do some performance team meetings so we can all just make sure we’re on the same page in supporting our athletes and finding out if there’s additional things that they need.”

As part of the campaign, the Wildcats encouraged people on campus to wear green bandanas, and to use the #WildcatsCare hashtag.

Many professional sports clubs employ a team psychologist who will help the players address any mental health concerns and issues. It can be very difficult for athletes to deal with mounting criticism, especially in the era of social media.

Athletes are only human, and it’s easy for one to lose their confidence when they’re struggling. Whether it’s amateur, high school, college or professional sports, having mental health experts for athletes has proven to be very useful.

In order to make everyone at the school feel included, the university also runs a RISE peer support group.

And back in November, the ACC, Pac-12 (the Wildcats’ conference) and Big Ten announced they were launching a “Teammates for Mental Health” initiative to further address strong mental-health for their athletes.

Working Together to End the Stigma

Throughout the 2010s and early years of the 2020s, the world saw a major rise in mental health advocacy.

For decades, countless people that have dealt with mental health issues unfortunately felt the need to keep their struggles to themselves. Many were worried about being unfairly judged if they revealed their issues to someone else.

But over the years, millions across the world have come together with the intention of ending the stigma against mental health.

World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually. Bell Media, the Canadian communications giant, celebrates #BellLetsTalk once a year as well, with the goal of expanding the awareness of mental health.

Plenty of celebrities — ranging from politicians to professional athletes to movie/TV stars to musicians — have also been vocal about their mental health struggles. Their willingness to open up has inspired people to know that it’s simply “Okay not to be okay.”

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one of the most universally beloved celebrities, discussed the depression he dealt with before he became a phenom in the WWE.

Accomplished athletes like American swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps seemingly has it all: Money, fame, millions of fans and the countless swimming awards.

But the Olympic icon is another example of how absolutely anyone can struggle, regardless of their social status and what luxuries they may have in life. Phelps has also been very open about his own struggles, and he too has been a major advocate in fighting the stigma.

In 2018, NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love also revealed their struggles with depression and anxiety. Love detailed a scary incident where he suffered a panic attack during a Cleveland Cavaliers game.

Arizona Wildcats

Love has strongly pushed the idea that suffering from mental health issues does not make a person weak.

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