Van Raalte’s research highlights the additional stresses NCAA student athletes face beyond those of their non-athlete peers, including regimented schedules, physical stress, fatigue, practice and game commitments, stereotyping by the media and faculty, and the dual role of student and athlete. Through Van Raalte’s innovation, NCAA student-athletes can gain the necessary knowledge, confidence, and skills to seek out mental health referrals through a multimedia, interactive website.
“Many student-athletes fail to get the mental help they need due to a lack of knowledge and concerns about mental health stigma,” said Van Raalte. “Because this new program is Web-based, it has the potential to affect student-athlete well-being and mental health across NCAA divisions, geographic regions, and resource availability levels.”
To address the mental health needs of students, preventive psychoeducational workshops have been created by many colleges and universities. Due to scheduling challenges limiting the number of student-athletes who can participate in any given workshop, and the shame and secrecy often associated with mental health concerns, addressing the mental health needs of NCAA student-athletes through psychoeducational workshops can be difficult.
“Web-based psychoeducational interventions offer solutions to some of the limitations of face-to-face approaches to mental health education,” said Van Raalte. “Web-based programs can offer rich content, tailored to student’s needs, in a cost-effective, confidential, and private manner."
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 45.9 million adults over the age of 18 experienced a mental illness in 2010, with 30 percent of those in the 18 to 25 year-old range reporting mental illness in the past year.
“Student-athletes have mental issues that have led to troubling outcomes including high suicide rates,” added Van Raalte. “Tailored, Web-based programs have been found to positively affect health outcomes.”