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Mental health and the pressures of athletics explored in IPEC event

Panelists from the Athletes and Mental Health event are members of UNE's support services
Panelists from the Athletes and Mental Health event are members of UNE's support services

May 02, 2019

Jean Claude Butera acts out a scene with UNE head basketball coach Ed Silva
Jean Claude Butera acts out a scene with UNE head basketball coach Ed Silva
Small groups of students engaged in a robust discussion after the presentation
Small groups of students engaged in a robust discussion after the presentation

UNE’s Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) brought more than 200 students from varying disciplines together to explore the role of mental health in athletics.

Katie Hawke, M.S., associate clinical professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Performance, developed “Athletes & Mental Health: Championing the Light at the End of the Tunnel,” an IPEC simulation event. The presentation involved representatives of several programs including Social Work; Health Wellness and Occupational Studies; Athletic Training; Applied Exercise Science; Microbiology; Osteopathic Medicine; Psychology and Nutrition.

Actors Garrett Hinge, Jean Claude Butera, and UNE basketball head coach Ed Silva depicted the journey of a college athlete as he struggled with intense pressure. In the staged vignette, the student athlete developed unhealthy habits that affected his family and concerned his teammates. He was eventually guided to healthy resources by his coach.

The evidence-based scenario was designed to be familiar to students who may be struggling.

“Student athletes are often under tremendous pressure from parents or peers to look or perform a certain way,” explained Hawke. “This can lead to uncontrollable anxiety and even depression. Mental health challenges can express themselves in self-destructive behavior such as over-exercising, unhealthy relationships with food, or experimentation with drugs and alcohol.”

Following the presentation, small groups of students engaged in a robust discussion.

“Students I observed were well engaged in discussion,” stated Karen Pardue, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF, dean of the Westbrook College of Health Professions. “The presentation captured their interest and drew them right in.”

The event concluded with several members of UNE’s support system explaining their roles and responsibilities as resources for students who need help.

“All of our doors are always open”, said Mike Lichten, head coach of the UNE football team. “The number one thing we deal with outside of our sports is the mental health and well-being of our athletes. If you are going into a health, coaching, or education profession, it’s something you’re going to have to be prepared to discuss, and support the people around you each and every day.”

IPEC events are designed to include presentations relevant to UNE students across diverse disciplines. They offer team-based opportunities for students to understand roles and responsibilities of those in other professions. IPEC’s mission is to transform health care education by fostering community-centered, collaborative learning and interprofessional practice.

UNE students and student-athletes seeking mental health resources are urged to contact the Student Counseling Center at 207-602-2549 on the Biddeford Campus and 207-221-4550 on the Portland Campus.

Watch Athletes & Mental Health: Championing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

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