ETSU focuses on mental health resources for student-athletes

ETSU is focusing on the mental health of student athletes this semester following recent controversies at the university.

At a press conference earlier this month, ETSU President Brian Noland discussed his expectations and plans for the athletics program. He wants students to excel in the classroom, coaches to play by the rules, and coaches to win championships, as well as focus on mental health and supporting student-athletes.

“The past few years have been extremely challenging for our student-athletes as they navigate the post-COVID landscape,” Noland said. “Last week was extremely difficult for the members of our women’s basketball team. Dr. Sander will find unique partnerships with ETSU Health, and he will bring them to fruition in a very short time, allowing us to provide dedicated mental health support to our student-athletes.

Brett Lewis, director of sports medicine for ETSU Athletics, explained the need for mental health services for athletes.

“The pressure of being a student-athlete seems to be getting harder, because I think there’s a lot more demand from athletes as they get into first grade. They have to figure out how to run their lives more on their own,” Lewis said.

With around 400 student-athletes at ETSU, Lewis thinks one of the biggest challenges athletes face is being able to properly manage a schedule. Between conditioning, classes, team meetings and practice, there is little room for these athletes to have time for themselves.

“It’s almost like a job,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ main goal for this semester and the future is to have more mental health professionals trained so student-athletes can meet more regularly throughout the week if they choose. This includes the provision of a clinical psychologist for athletes.

“We’ve been in the process of getting more accessibility and more providers who can help our student athletes from a mental health perspective,” Lewis said. “I think they are using the available resources more than before. The stigma begins to diminish.

Lewis now focuses primarily on men’s basketball and women’s triathlon, but he oversees the care of all student athletes and understands that the pressure put on them can be detrimental to their mental and physical health.

Overall, Lewis is ready for this semester and is looking forward to working with the athletes. He thinks the athletic department as a whole is taking the right steps when it comes to mental health.

“I think we are going in the right direction. I think we have a long way to go, but our department and campus leaders are also trying to help us,” Lewis said.

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