Conference Addresses Mental Health

June 28, 2018

The America East Board of Presidents have unanimously approved several recommendations put forward by the conference’s Mental Health Working Group aimed at addressing student-athlete mental health issues, it was announced Thursday morning.

The Mental Health Working Group, formed in the fall of 2017, identified key priorities of focus and areas of investment for America East athletic departments to create mentally healthier environments for its student-athletes. The recommendations will help achieve several goals, including the de-stigmatization of student-athlete mental health, the education of key athletics constituency groups and the creation and implementation of proactive and reactive best practices for student-athlete safety and well-being.
“Our objective was to make a resounding statement regarding the importance of our student-athletes' mental health and well-being,” said Stony Brook University Athletic Director, Shawn Heilbron, a member of the working group. “I am elated that the recommendations made by the Mental Health Working Group were unanimously adopted, and I believe that these proactive measures will positively impact countless student-athletes within the America East Conference.”   

“The overall health and well-being of our student-athletes continues to be paramount to us as a conference,” said America East Commissioner, Amy Huchthausen. “I commend the working group on their thorough work as these actions will benefit all of our student-athletes as we work to create healthier and positive environments across each of our campuses and communities.”  

The adopted recommendations include both standard and suggested practices, which are required to be implemented no later than the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. Select practices include:

  • Conference-sponsored mental health awareness events activated on campus by each respective Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
  • Requirement for a licensed healthcare practitioner to attend select all-team meetings for a services overview.
  • A listing of licensed healthcare practitioners’ contact information and resources hosted in a place that is easily accessible to student-athletes.
  • Annual educational workshops for all coaches and frontline administrators.
  • Quarterly opportunities for SAAC leadership to meet with internal multi-disciplinary Care Teams to discuss issues, challenges, concerns, suggestions and other health-related topics.
  • Inclusion of specific mental health topics at the conference’s annual Health & Safety Summit.
  • Creation and maintenance of institutional Mental Health Emergency Action Plans and non-crisis situation referral guidelines, which will be annually disseminated to key athletics constituents.
  • Inclusion of mental health screening as a component of the annual pre-participation examination. 

“I'm really excited to see that the conference is taking further steps towards bringing attention to the issue of mental health,” said University of Vermont 2018 graduate Kelly Lennon, a former student-athlete and member of the working group. “With mental health being one of the most important issues facing student-athletes today, I am proud that as a conference, America East is taking action to benefit the well-being of its student-athletes.”

America East has proved to a be a leader in emphasizing the importance of mental health since the advent of its #AEThinksHealthy campaign in 2016. In addition to the recommendations put forward by the Mental Health Working Group, the conference annually holds a Health & Safety Summit, bringing together medical professionals, administrators and select student-athletes to discuss a wide range of topics related to heath and well-being. The conference also provided $500 grants to each of its nine member institution SAACs this year to address issues associated with mental health and help create a more mentally healthy future.

The #AEThinksHealthy campaign is one of several leadership initiatives under the conference’s #3Pillars, including its #SpreadRespect campaign, Alumni Network, #3PAcademy and the #AEFoodFrenzy.

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