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UPMC Western Behavioral Health and Sports Medicine Partnership

You trust us to keep athletes in the game. Trust us to train and equip coaches, parents, and athletic staff to notice the challenges student-athletes face that aren't always so visible.

Though sports offer many health benefits, the demands that often come with them can wear on a student-athlete's mental health.

While striving to excel in their sport, they're under added pressure to balance their classwork and social lives with games and practices.

Helping Student-Athletes Stay Healthy On and Off the Field

At UPMC, we have the training to assess all aspects of the student-athlete's health.

We want to help you support your student-athletes if they find themselves in a time of need.

UPMC Sports Medicine, in partnership with UPMC Western Behavioral Health, offers mental health and wellness education for student-athletes. We're here to help you perform at your very best in sports, school, and life.

For partner schools and groups, we offer ongoing virtual training. And you have access to your own referral coordinator to ensure support, services, and proper follow-up.

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.

It also plays a role in how we respond to stress, relate to others, and make healthy and safe choices in life.

Mental health is a part of everyone's daily life.

And mental health challenges are very common. Did you know, 1 in 5 people suffers from a mental illness each year?

Student-athletes tend to feel more distress because of wanting to perform at a higher level for themselves or others.

They seek validation, praise, greatness, fulfillment, and success.

Redefining Who You Are After a Sports Injury or Season

A common struggle with athletes is feeling like sports are their whole identity. They sometimes need a reminder that they were whole before their sport and will be whole after.

Take time to focus on both your physical and mental health.

Tips to manage identity struggles

  • Create goals for yourself outside of sports.
  • Envision your future self.
  • Cross train in a different sport.
  • Try something new often.
  • Remind yourself of the skills you already have.
  • Define yourself by values and beliefs, instead of descriptors like “athlete."
  • Focus on the things you can control instead of the things you can't.

Making Time for Self-Care

Make your wellness a priority, and try to do these things for yourself each day:

  • Challenge your mind.
  • Clean or organize something.
  • Work out.
  • Eat something heathy and drink water.
  • Get some sleep.
  • Compliment yourself.

Where to Go for Help

It's okay to ask for help. Remember, if you're feeling a certain way, chances are someone else is having similar feelings.

Think about reaching out to:

  • A coach, teammate, or athletic trainer.
  • A guidance counselor or teacher.
  • A family member.

You can also contact the:

  • PA Crisis Text Line. Text “PA" to 741-741.
  • The resolve Crisis Line at 1-888-796-8226 (for those who live in Allegheny County).
  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • The Trevor Project. Call 1-866-488-7386 or text “START" to 678-678.
  • The DDAP Crisis Hotline for a for drug-related crisis at 1-800-662-4357.
  • Pittsburgh Action Against Rape at 1-866-363-7273.

Student-Athletes and Mental Health: Presentations and Resources

Kenneth C. Nash, MD, and Raymond Pan, MD, from UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital lead this program. It includes videos from experts who support the health and wellness of student-athletes.

Dr. Nash is the team psychiatrist for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Steelers. Dr. Pan is known nationally for his work with student-athlete mental health and wellness.

For coaches and athletic trainers:

  • Identifying and Supporting Student-Athletes with Mental Health Needs (1:04:17).

Recognizing, Managing, and Supporting the Mental Health of Student-Athletes for:

  • Middle-school athletes (52:46).
  • High school and college athletes (56:59).
  • Parents of middle-school athletes (53:26).
  • Parents of high school athletes (57:34).

To learn more about how UPMC supports student-athletes' mental health and wellness: