The Mental Health Advisory Group will meet for the first time

The Mental Health Advisory Group, created to advise the NCAA on emerging developments in mental health science and policy, will convene Thursday for its inaugural meeting.

Following the 2020 Summit on the Mental Health and Wellness of Diverse Student-Athletes, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports appointed the advisory panel. It is tasked with reviewing and recommending updates to the NCAA’s mental health best practices and other relevant mental health materials.

The group will specifically consider updates to support the mental health and well-being of diverse student-athletes, particularly people of color, those with disabilities, and those who identify as LGBTQ, as well as international student-athletes.

The group will also provide feedback on mental health related topics as set by CSMAS.

“Since my tenure with the NCAA began in 2013 and the initial NCAA Mental Health Task Force, the mental health and well-being of student-athletes has been a constant topic and a top priority,” said Brian Heinlein, NCAA Chief Medical Officer. “The Mental Health Advisory Group is part of an ongoing effort to strengthen our program and educational resources for members and student-athletes.”

The group’s work comes at a critical time: The 2021 Survey of Student-Athlete Well-Being showed that levels of mental exhaustion, anxiety and depression have changed little since fall 2020 and remain 1.5 to two times higher higher than those identified before the COVID-19 pandemic. Importantly, less than half of student-athletes said they would feel comfortable seeking support from a mental health provider on campus.

Under the new NCAA constitution, each member school must facilitate an environment that promotes physical and mental health within athletics by ensuring access to appropriate resources and open engagement regarding physical and mental health. The work of the Mental Health Advisory Group follows the student-athlete support constitution.

“The promise was to prioritize mental health for all student-athletes and make evidence-based recommendations generated from a thorough research review of the current literature on mental health and the intersection of mental well-being and sports,” said Megan Koch, Division III SAAC chair, 2022 Colorado College graduate and former cross country and track and field student-athlete. β€œThe benefit of this group is that student-athletes can see the due care and high level of seriousness that is being taken regarding the current mental health situation on campuses across the country. The meaning of this work is literally of life and death.”

Working under the direction and supervision of CSMAS, the advisory group consists of representatives from relevant medical and scientific organizations with expertise in the field of mental health. The group also includes representatives from Division I, II and III members, with the majority being student-athletes. Organizations are responsible for nominating individual representatives and these are likely to change over time.

“The membership appreciates ongoing mental health guidance, and I think the advisory group will be able to increase that,” Jamie Houle, Ohio State’s lead sports psychologist, CSMAS vice president and CSMAS representative on the Mental Health Advisory Group, said during a recent episode of the NCAA Social Series. “Updating mental health best practices is another example of the NCAA taking a leadership role in mental health.”

The group aims to have initial recommendations to CSMAS for review in June 2023 and a final document ready for circulation in January 2024.

List of the Mental Health Advisory Group

Organization representatives

  • Alliance of Social Workers in Sport.
  • American Medical Association for Sports Medicine.
  • American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine.
  • Asian American Psychological Association.
  • Association for Applied Sport Psychology.
  • Athlete Ali.
  • College Athletic Trainers’ Society.
  • Association for Clinical/Counseling Sport Psychology.
  • Association of Athletics Teachers’ Representatives.
  • Alliance for Mental Health in Higher Education.
  • International Society of Sports Psychiatry.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness.
  • National Athletic Trainers Association.
  • Society for Sleep Research.
  • Society for Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology.
  • Society of Indian Psychologists.
  • The Trevor Project.
  • United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

NCAA representatives

  • Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
  • Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
  • Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
  • SAAC Additional Representative β€” Division I.
  • SAAC Additional Representative β€” Division II.
  • SAAC Additional Representative β€” Division III.
  • SAAC Additional Representative – Student-Athlete Engagement Committee to the Board of Governors.
  • Department I Management Representative.
  • Department II Management Representative.
  • Department III management representative.
  • CSMAS representative.

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