Memorable messages that shape student-athletes’ perceptions of seeking mental health services

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Aviry L. Reich (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
L. DiAnne Borders

Abstract: Student-athletes encounter a series of unique stressors associated with their athletic status that can compromise their well-being (Beauchemin, 2012; Brown et al., 2014; Parham, 1993; Valentine & Taub, 1999). There is evidence to suggest that demands on student-athletes’ increase their risk for experiencing certain mental and physical distress (e.g., eating disorders, anxiety, depression) (Brown et al., 2014; Etzel et al., 2006; Rice et al., 2016). Further, student-athletes are less likely to seek help from mental health professionals than their non-athlete peers (Watson, 2005). The purpose of this study was to understand the role that communication plays in socializing student-athletes, and how communication influences their perceptions of seeking mental health services. The research questions in this study were the following: 1) What are the memorable messages student-athletes receive that inform their perceptions of seeking mental health services? 2) Which sources who deliver the memorable messages have the greatest impact on student-athletes’ attitudes and perceptions of seeking mental health services? This study utilized Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) to conduct and analyze in-depth interviews about Division I student-athletes’ experiences and context surrounding the memorable messages received, with the intention of identifying themes that capture the impact the messages have had on their help-seeking attitudes and behaviors. The current body of research provides evidence that memorable messages student-athletes received have positively and negatively influenced their attitudes and behaviors towards seeking professional help. Findings from this current study revealed that, across the two domains that directly answered the research questions, there were five general categories and seven typical categories indicating there were commonalities in the memorable messages received and significant sources who communicated them. All participants identified and recalled specific memorable messages, both positive and negative, regarding seeking mental health services; however, overall student-athletes received a higher frequency of positive messages. The common theme around the positive messages student-athletes received were some variation of “It’s ok to not be ok” while the theme around the negative messages received were rooted in sport culture norms such as “Athletes are supposed to be tough” and “You’re weak if you need help.” The significant sources who most influenced student-athletes’ perceptions of seeking mental health services were coaches and family (parents, dad, mom, sister, and uncle).

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Athlete identity, Help-seeking behavior, Memorable messages, Professional psychological help, Student-athlete
College athletes $x Mental health
Sports $x Psychological aspects
Communication $x Psychological aspects
Help-seeking behavior

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