Mental Health in Athletes: 45 Resources to Help You Cope
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, NBA player Kevin Love, tennis champion Serena Williams and UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi have captivated sports fans with their athletic abilities. They are also among the sports figures who have spoken openly about challenges with mental health. Elite athletes in the spotlight for mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and PTSD, give a voice to others who quietly face the same struggles and remind everyone that even those who perform seemingly superhuman feats struggle sometimes and need support.
Organizations and Athletes at All Levels
1 in 4 Project: This Chicago-based organization works to overcome the shame associated with mental health in sports by providing programs and workshops focused on self-advocacy, nutrition and more to athletes, their parents and the sports community.
Athletes Against Anxiety and Depression Foundation: The AAAD provides resources for those coping with mental issues in order to foster a community where everyone feels comfortable and unashamed to share their stories.
Athletes for Hope: This organization, which educates and connects athletes to charities around the world, provides athletes with suggestions on how to take action on mental health.
Association for Applied Sport Psychology: The AASP’s membership includes sport psychology consultants and professionals. Its site connects athletes, coaches and parents with information to help with the psychological component that affects performance.
BelievePerform: A global source of content on performance psychology, this website focuses on well-being and mental health for the sports community and provides free articles and videos on a broad range of topics for athletes of all levels. It also offers paid membership to access courses and training programs.
Beyond Sport: This global organization promotes social change through sports with various initiatives, including the Stay in the Game Network, a forum featuring leaders in sports, health care and social change. The forum explores the use of sports to promote mental wellness.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Brain Injury Basics: This CDC webpage provides information on signs, prevention and treatment of concussions.
Managing Stress in Sports: Quieting the Mind and the Body: The Anxiety and Depression Association of America provides a webinar that explores how to cope when a sport is becoming a stressor.
Recognize to Recover: U.S. Soccer’s comprehensive player health and safety program for all ages has a page with comprehensive lists of common mental health disorders among athletes, behaviors to watch for and best ways to approach a conversation about mental illness.
Road Runners Club of America’s Mental Health Tips for Runners: The oldest and largest national association of runners and running organizations provides a mental health guide with sections on common problems such as disordered eating, stress, anxiety and depression.
SportsPsych Works: The directory of fact sheets from the American Psychological Association’s Division 47 (Society for Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology) covers various topics such as masculinity, hazing, eating disorders and sports identity.
Elite and Professional Athletes
Athlete 365: This initiative of the International Olympic Committee supports member athletes through a community that offers advice, service and tools on topics including mental health.
Athletes for Care: A nonprofit of former professional athletes, this organization advocates to improve the health of athletes with mental illness.
Mental Health Q&A with Olympians Natalie Coughlin, Maya DiRado and Sport Psychologist Sean McCann: USA Swimming filmed a video during the COVID-19 lockdown to address the mental health of competitive swimmers, touching on topics including how to be resilient using your skills as a swimmer.
MLB Mental Wellness: MLB’s resource page dedicated to mental wellness provides information about various mental health issues as well as resources for athletes and families including a 24/7 helpline.
National Basketball Players Association Mental Health and Wellness Program: NBA players have access to resources, referrals and best practices to maintain mental health.
NFL Life Line: External link Part of the NFL Total Wellness initiative, this website chat and confidential hotline (800-506-0078) connects current and former NFL players, coaches, team and league staff and family members to professional counselors who receive special training on NFL culture.
The Players’ Tribune Mental Health Awareness Collection: This media company provides athletes with a platform to publish personal stories, which include their mental health experiences.
Strength Over Silence: Tackling Mental Health Stigma: This video from the National Alliance on Mental Illness features Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Chris Hubbard talking about the importance of mental health care.
Team USA Athlete Services: The mental health–focused page created by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee offers member athletes information on how to access sports psychologists, unlimited phone counseling and other mental health resources.
College and Secondary Athletes
Athletes Connected: This program developed by a collaboration between the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Depression Center, and Athletic Department conducts research and offers support to raise awareness about mental health issues, reduce the stigma of seeking help and promote positive coping skills among student athletes.
Eric Monday Foundation: Based in Virginia, this nonprofit organization helps athletes overcome the stigma of seeking mental health assistance and connects them to support organizations and professionals.
Helping Support Student-Athlete Mental Health (PDF, 1 MB): NCAA’s primer for stakeholders outside of athletics outlines approaches to help student athletes and athletic staff recognize mental health issues including disordered eating, mood disorders, depression, anxiety disorders and sleep disorders.
Hope Happens Here: External link A student-led movement with specific focus on student-athletes, this initiative promotes mental health awareness on college campuses via presentations and activities intended to break the stigma.
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Mental Health: NAIA’s site provides a number of mental health resources including “What’s Going on in Their Minds,” a slide presentation with downloadable talking points to assist presenters.
NCAA Sport Science Institute: NCAA Sport Science Institute’s central page on mental health provides educational resources, best practices, data and research, and information summits and task forces related to the topic.
Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention (PDF, 1.5 MB): This toolkit from the NCAA Sport Science Institute provides evidence-based approaches that athletic staff can use to address misuse of alcohol, marijuana and other substances.
Support for Sport: Funded by an NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant, this online center helps athletes find information about mental health referrals.
LEAD: Let’s Empower Advocate and Do: This student-founded nonprofit organization provides mental health education for middle school, high school and college athletes and athletic staff with topics specific to a competitive sports environment.
Mental Wellness in Sports: Psychology Today developed a series that features blog posts on showing appreciation and helping young athletes feel safe.
MindWise Innovations: This Massachusetts nonprofit partners with schools and communities on suicide prevention and connecting people with mental health resources.
Emotional Injuries Center: Part of the nonprofit MomsTeam Institute, this site offers information and expert advice on bullying, hazing and being cut from a team to ensure that sports are safe for children.
National Alliance for Youth Sports: Mental Health Challenges: This nonprofit focuses on educating and preparing youth sports leaders, volunteers and parents so children can enjoy the benefits of sports. The site has an information page on mental health challenges in sports with a link to sign up for a supplemental coach training course on the subject.
The Psychology of Recovering from a Sports Injury: The Children’s Hospital of Colorado provides recommendations on what to do after being injured, including understanding the injury and setting goals.
Rocket Blades: The CDC’s mobile app on concussion safety for children ages 6 to 8 teaches how the brain can be hurt during sports activities and the importance of telling a coach, parent or other adult when an injury occurs.
Society of Health and Physical Educators: This national organization of health and physical education professionals has resources for coaches and teachers to inspire healthy habits and minds among children.
Will to Live: This Georgia-based charity organization spreads awareness about mental health and promotes suicide prevention efforts.
Coaches and Trainers
American Academy of Neurology: Sports Concussion Resources: The AAN provides resources for coaches and trainers on how to better understand, prevent and treat concussions.
At Your Own Risk: This initiative from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association aims to educate parents, school administrators and student athletes about a better approach to sports by providing tips to promote a positive sport experience and foster a culture of safety.
National Eating Disorders Association: Coach and Athletic Trainer Toolkit (PDF, 725 KB): The NEDA’s guide provides strategies to support athletes who may be affected by eating disorders.
Mental Health Best Practices: Understanding and Supporting Student-Athlete Mental Wellness (PDF, 2.5 MB): This NCAA Sport Science Institute’s publication highlights best practices and lists resources for athletic departments and university partners on subjects such as mental health screenings and referrals.
Mental Health: Managing Student-Athletes’ Mental Health Issues (PDF, 732 KB): This NCAA handbook provides information on behavioral, cognitive, emotional/psychological and physical/medical symptoms of mental health conditions to identify student-athletes who are at risk.
Mind, Body and Sport: Understanding and Supporting Student Athlete Mental Wellness (PDF, 3.1 MB): This guide from the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute on supporting student-athlete mental wellness includes personal stories, information on recognizing symptoms of various conditions and disorders, and suggestions for what coaches and athletic trainers can do to provide care.
National Athletic Trainers’ Association: This association’s mental health page connects visitors with development planning guides for student athletes with psychological concerns at the secondary and collegiate levels.
Positive Coaching Alliance: This nonprofit with a mission to create a positive, character-building youth sports environment provides training workshops and resources on topics such as being a good teammate, learning the value of composure and putting sports into perspective.
This article is for informational purposes only. If you are experiencing a mental health condition or crisis, contact a mental health professional.
Are you interested in a career supporting the mental health of athletes and other individuals? Read about how social workers address mental health with clients and learn how to become a licensed clinical social worker.