COLUMN: Mental health is just as important for student-athletes


Rob Le Cates

Kate Stevens is a senior sports media relations major. and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

As we focus our issue on mental health this week, I am writing this as a reminder that the mental health of athletes and student-athletes is incredibly important. 

​Personally, I am a huge advocate for mental health, and I think you all should be too. We all go through things, and I simply cannot imagine having to go through the battles I have gone through while being a student athlete. Fighting for my mental health as well as trying to keep my grades up was tough for me and it took a long time for me to be able to manage the two. 

​Student-athletes are always held on a higher pedestal and are expected to work hard both on the field/court/track as well as in their academics. Each individual athlete has their individual struggles both on and off. They often have to push those off the field struggles and battles to the side so that they can perfect their craft and be the best athlete they can be. 

Athletes also have to have this facade to show that they are tough all the time and can’t be beat, right?

As time goes on, bottling these things up can be dangerous and life threatening. In 2022, student-athlete suicide rates have skyrocketed. At the beginning of 2022, there were three young women who were college athletes who committed suicide. They were all at the top of their sports at their schools. 

Lauren Bennett was a softball player for James Madison University, Katie Meyer was a goalkeeper for Stanford, and Sarah Shulze was a runner for the University of Wisconsin. They were all three stars on their teams and struggled behind the scenes of it all. 

​Unfortunately, we have experienced the suicide of a student-athlete here at Eastern. In the fall of 2021, we lost Jason Aguilar, a sophomore accounting major and track athlete. In the days following, many friends came forward to express how loved he was and how caring and fun he was himself. His fellow teammates looked up to him and loved to be around him. This is one example that truly hits home for me because it was someone on our campus and his closest friends and teammates had no idea what he was contemplating or struggling with. 

​Colleges absolutely need to have mental health programs in place for all of their players. Mental health is something that needs to be openly talked about as a team and all coaches and players need to be educated on how important it is to keep players safe and know that no one battles alone. 

​You are never alone. You are so loved and the battles you face are important and deserve attention. Let your trusted friends, family, coaches, or teammates know what you are going through so they can help you seek and receive all the help you need. The stigma of getting help is slowly going away, but it is still there. Everyone who needs help deserves it. Please don’t let fear keep you from reaching out. You are so deserving of being freed from your mental battles. 

​Always be kind to yourself and others. You are loved and you are worthy. Please, student-athletes and students, never be afraid to reach out. Take care of yourselves as we want you here and we need you here. You are so important.

Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]