A new study highlights athletes’ mental health literacy and ways to reduce stigmas around mental health diagnoses on college campuses.

College athletes playing this fall have spent months practicing and preparing for the season. But the stressors they face—from the pressure to win every week to balancing academic workloads and maintaining their physical health—can take a toll on this group of students.

Lauren Beasley, assistant professor in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University and Steven Hoffman, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University, coauthored the study in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues.

For the study, the researchers sent an online survey to 205 undergraduate student athletes participating in National Collegiate Athletic Association sports and 205 non-athlete undergraduates at NCAA institutions to measure their mental health knowledge, experiences, and attitudes.

The results show that student athletes don’t have statistically different levels of mental health literacy compared to their non-athlete counterparts—a finding that other researchers have corroborated.

Those who had experienced mental health issues firsthand had higher mental health knowledge than their peers, had more exposure to mental illness, and didn’t have the same negative perceptions of mental illnesses.

The researchers also found that students of color showed higher rates of experience with mental health issues than their white counterparts, and men tended to have more negative perceptions of mental illness compared to the women in this study.

Both groups of students in the study had average levels of mental health literacy, but both also tended to perceive mental health diagnoses in a negative light.

The researchers also found that student athletes specifically experienced high rates of mental health stigma. This suggests that mental health campaigns in athletic departments and on college campuses are working at the functional level by increasing mental health knowledge, but are not yet meaningfully decreasing mental health stigma.

To help increase mental health literacy and decrease the stigmas associated with diagnoses, universities could implement culturally responsive initiatives on campus that encourage mental health awareness and provide resources for addressing students’ needs.

Read the full article about college athletes' mental health by Angela Turk at Futurity.