I recently was in a situation where an athlete’s loved one attempted suicide. As athletic trainers, it is in our nature to intervene and support the athlete in any way possible. In this particular situation, the athlete had also sustained an injury in a game the night before and we had set up a plan to begin rehabilitation on the injury the next day. When I heard the news, my mindset and plan of action shifted from rehabilitating the orthopedic injury to ensuring the athlete was in a stable state of mind.
A key component of handling mental illness in sport is developing policies and procedures for athletes to seek mental help much like they seek guidance for their physical health. In 2013, the NATA released an inter-association task force consensus statement titled, “Recommendations for Developing a Plan to Recognize and Refer Student Athletes with Psychological Concerns at the Collegiate Level.” In the secondary school setting, athletic trainers may also use this resource to help identify behaviors to monitor that reflect physiological concerns.
In my transition to practice, I have learned that it takes a team based approach to keep an athlete safe. In this particular case, athletic trainers, counselors, social workers, school administration, and coaches all worked together with a common goal of ensuring this athlete was healthy, physically and mentally.
Consensus Statement: www.nata.org/sites/default/files/psychologicalreferal-summary.pdf
Emma Nye LAT, ATC