Mental health is the most important health and safety issue facing student-athletes according to the NCAA chief medical officer. Unfortunately, the data also shows that only 10% of college athletes ask for help. That’s why putting mental health center stage is key. To that end, the University of Nevada, Reno is proud to join universities across the country in participating in College Football Mental Week October 1-8, highlighting the importance of this initiative in the October 7 matchup against Colorado State.
The University recently launched its own Nevada Athletic Mental Health Initiative and now, thanks to a generous grant from the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, the program is growing rapidly.
“The work that Nevada Athletics does to bring mental health issues front and center for student-athletes, coaches, administrators and support staff complements the mission of our foundation,” said Julie Pippenger, the Foundation’s chief operating officer. Andre Agassi for Education. “We look forward to seeing how additional support will take this effort much further, providing access to nationally recognized training sessions, materials, assessments, and online resources, as well as the creation of a dedicated, private office space for counseling.” .
The mental health initiative has been a top priority since Stephanie Rempe and Ken Wilson joined the Wolf Pack as director of athletics and head football coach, respectively. During his time at Washington State University, Coach Wilson saw the importance of mental health awareness firsthand after quarterback Tyler Hilinski committed suicide just days after his first college start. . Tyler’s parents chose to turn that tragedy into an opportunity to save the lives of other athletes, creating the Hilinski Hope Foundation, which now travels the country educating student-athletes and coaches on how to provide mental health resources and eliminate the stigma.
“We want to make sure that we are diligent in our efforts to give student athletes the tools to understand their own mental health, to be able to communicate about it and have the resources to do so,” said Coach Wilson’s wife, Heather. 96 (recreation), who has been instrumental in growing support and implementing the new program. “Equally important, we are working hard to provide our coaches and staff with the proper mental health education specific to student athletes and how to best serve our athletes in Nevada when it comes to their mental health needs.”
Heather Wilson added that the initiative has come a long way in a short time, with these key steps already taken:
- Secured funding to hire in-house mental health professionals for student-athletes.
- Soccer, sports medicine and academic staff have all been certified in Mental Health First Aid through College Counseling Services.
- The athletic department established two additional best practices for student-athlete mental health in conjunction with the NCAA Sports Science Institute Best Practices. These additions include creating a Student Athlete Care Team Program and providing education to help student athletes understand their own mental health and communicate when they need support.
In addition, through the support of the Agassi Foundation for Education, the mental health initiative is being promoted by:
- Bringing Hilinski’s Hope Foundation to campus to speak with student athletes, coaches, administrators, and support staff. The nationally recognized foundation was established in 2018 and now works with more than 150 campuses across the country.
- Launch of Hilinski’s Hope Mental Health Class. These six online modules will be mandatory for Nevada’s 450 student-athletes, coaches and staff.
- Installation of digital boards in all sports facilities with information and resources for mental health.
“This is really just the beginning of our effort and commitment to serve our student athletes and their mental health needs,” said Heather Wilson. “The support we receive from the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education will boost our mental health program, making it one of the best programs in the country.”
If you would like more information about the Nevada Athletic Mental Health Initiative and how you can support the growth of the program, please contact Douglas Stewart, Associate Director of Athletics, Development, at (856) 261-3313.