Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – While head injuries have been at the forefront of discussions in sports lately, the NCAA is sounding the alarm on another area of serious concern - and it's not one that you typically think of with athletes.
It's hard to spot in people, but studies have indicated that around a quarter of all college age people suffer from mental illness.
It’s safe to assume that being an athlete on campus doesn't make you immune to mental illness.
That’s why the NCAA is calling attention to the issue.
A conference of athletic trainers just convened that produced recommendations for schools to develop a plan to handle athletes psychological concerns.
"The stressors of being in the lime light - but in addition to that - they have stressors such as the amount of time they have to spend, they do miss holidays, they miss events with their families," said Tim Neal, the Assistant Director for Sports Medicine at Syracuse University.
"Even the psychological response to injury, athletes many times identify themselves as an athlete and whenever that is threatened because they have a career ending injury or season ending injury you have to take that into account," Neal explained.
The NCAA just released a consensus statement on the issue - which happens to be based on the SU model - as the starting point for every college team across the country.
“We have to destigmatize those coming forward looking for help. We have to raise the awareness of everyone, student athletes, athletic trainers, team physicians, coaches, parents to some of the behaviors to monitor in our student athletes,” Neal said. “Lastly, we have to work collaboratively with mental health care professionals and try to get these athletes in for an evaluation."
Neal - who co-authored the consensus statement - says it's an often an overlooked public health issue, but hopes this is the first step to bringing it the attention it deserves through college athletics.
Neal says he'll attend a conference in November to develop guidelines to help teach and inform those in college athletics about mental health concerns.