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Sharpen athlete resilience

According to the 2022 NCAA Student Athlete Wellbeing survey, student athletes report elevated levels of mental health concerns (with half of student-athletes feeling that mental health is a priority to their athletics department).


Since 2019, Sharpen has worked with researchers and college athletic teams and coaching staff to design and implement a comprehensive mental health awareness and resiliency program.


We launched pilots beginning in 2020 on three college campuses. The intervention included mental health screenings followed by protective resiliency training / content. The modular content in the program, features athletes, coaches and athletic directors speaking directly about athlete mental health, suicide prevention and other important topics.




In 2020, we deployed Sharpen's athlete program to 800 college athletes. Implementation strategy included:


(a) conducting focus groups with athletes and coaching staff

(b) creating customized Sharpen service that was specific to the college,

(c) deploying screening through Sharpen, and

(d) monitoring usage after screening.


The results of the screening included learning that over 65 athletes were currently presenting with risk for bulimia nervosa, and nearly 40 with generalized anxiety disorder. As a result of these findings, we were able to strategically incorporate evidence-based training on the topics.


In 2021, we deployed the athlete program to another college program. Based on our previous study, we revised our implementation strategy to create athlete-focused mental health content (featuring peer stories of resilience and strength) and to deploy the customized Sharpen service with an entire library of resiliency resources including access to crisis support, counseling services and modular CBT interventions.


Our strategic planning sessions and documentary film interviews with athletes, coaching staff, counselors and athletic directorship revealed three key themes centered on mental health risk factors:

1) perceived pressure

2) loneliness

3) stigma


An additional five themes centered on protective factors against mental health:

1) vulnerability with teammates

2) establishment of a holistic identity

3) campus involvement

4) spiritual coping

5) development of a positive mindset (Biber, 2023)


We launched the new athlete mental health films and modular psychoeducational content, then deployed mental health screenings during the annual physical exams. The counseling services department made licensed counselors available so that every athlete had to meet with a counselor regardless of the results of their screening, which normalized the entire experience. Similar to the first study, we were able to provide mental health training content that correlated to the results of the screening. This time, however, we were able to integrate protective content directly and immediately into the results of the screen. CBT / psychoeducational content was deployed at the moment of the screen, drawing participants into a large library on a branded UWG / Sharpen app. Content in the app had over 1500 unique pageviews on over 130 mental health topics (90 days following screen) including:


  • Stigma and Treatment

  • How to Help Someone

  • Overcoming Adversity - Trauma and Toxic Stress

  • Mental Wellness at UWG

  • Mental Health Literacy

  • Athlete Mental Health


For 90 days following the screenings, we were able to view de-identified data regarding the type of content that athletes accessed and circulate proactive training through email and texts.


In sum, 367 athletes completed the mental and behavioral health screening through the Sharpen mobile application. Participants self-reported mental and behavioral health symptoms, including risk and criteria for 26 ICD-10 disorders. Across the sample, 17.1% of participants (n = 63) met at least 50% of the criteria for at least one diagnosis, 18.8% (n = 69) met 70-99% of diagnostic criteria for at least one diagnosis, and 15.5% of participants (n = 57) met 100% of diagnostic criteria for at least one ICD-10 diagnosis (Biber et al, 2023).


Sharpen is able to implement these evidence-based programs to support the mental wellbeing of all athletes because of our many partnerships with researchers. We invite researchers to engage directly with us here: https://www.sharpenminds.com/research.



References:


Biber, D. D. (2023). University student-athlete perceptions of mental health and coping. Performance Enhancement & Health (in review, April, 2023).


Biber, D. D. Davis, A., & Stewart, B (revised and resubmitted). Heads Up! Using a Mobile Platform to Assess Division II Student-Athlete Mental Health. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action (March, 2023).


NCAA SA Wellbeing Study (2022). Retrieved May 4, 2023 via: https://ncaaorg.s3.amazonaws.com/research/other/2020/2022RES_NCAA-SA-Well-BeingSurvey.pdf



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