December 2, 2022 | NEWS | By Evan Arvizu | Photo by Erin Mullins
In the wake of campus wide calls for the prioritization of mental health, Colorado College Athletics is launching a pilot mental health program in collaboration with Colorado Springs Childrens’ Hospital with the goal of understanding the needs of students and implementing resources to address those needs.
The conversation around mental health at CC has come to the forefront again recently, following the tragic passings of three CC students in less than a year. The environment at CC, with the academic rigor of the Block Plan and an array of other pressures facing students, has encouraged some to think there is a need for additional mental health resources.
The Block Plan is a complicated entity that has widespread impacts on mental health on campus. It creates a unique opportunity for education which draws a lot of students. The ability to fully immerse yourself in a topic is a valuable experience that can be beneficial for learning and growth. But the schedule also has clear flaws.
The condensed nature of the Block Plan can increase the pressure of constant performance and rapid growth. There is little time to make the mistakes that inevitably accompany learning because time in the classroom is so compacted. Some professors discourage students from missing even one day of class because of how much content is covered in one morning session. Some students argue that this creates unrealistic standards and doesn’t allow for the reality and unpredictability of life.
That is how the protests began.
More recent action involves a petition that was signed by almost 500 students, almost a fourth of the CC studentpopulation, centered around demands that call out inaction from administration, include a penalty free mental health day in any block, the establishment of boundaries for classroom work and expectations outside of class time, and a 3 p.m. campus wide cut off time for classes.
This new program taking place in athletics follows these student led movements, working towards concrete improvements in partnership with medical professionals. The Colorado Springs Childrens’ Hospital has been running a similar program throughout Colorado Springs over the past three years, focused on evidence-based mental health resilience.
Students at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels have participated in this project, with measured outcomes that include a reduction in reported anxiety, depression, and negative emotions, as well as an improvement in resiliency, efficacy, and positive emotions.
This new pilot program will be voluntarily administered to CC’s varsity student-athletes, overseen by the Sports Performance Program and staff. The program will consist of two surveys addressing topics like anxiety, depression, stress, hope, and belongingness, administered at different points throughout the year. After the first survey, data will be analyzed to see what issues are most prevalent in the athletic community. The survey is anonymous and doesn’t include personal information outside of team affiliation.
“We’re trying to get a sense of what we are dealing with. What’s our sense of belongingness, what’s our sense of hope, how many kids are dealing with anxiety, depression, stress. From that I’m going to be working with clinical psychologists in the Children’s Hospital system to evaluate the results and try to figure out ways to help student athletes,” said Rich Bennett, the Associate Athletic Director for Sports Performance and Wellness.
These interventions would then be ideally implemented during Blocks 5 and 6, with the second survey being sent out around Block 7. It would be the same survey, hoping to measure how those interventions impacted the community, looking for indications of change, in hopes that whatever resources are implemented impact the students participating.
“What the program is about is trying to enhance the mental health portion of what we do,” said Bennett. “To me this is a huge topic to work on because we have resources to do the rest. Mental health is the topic that hasn’t been given all of its due. We’re focused on the importance of the entire well being of student athletes. It’s physical wellbeing, like addressing back injuries or knee injuries. But it’s also mental health, mental well being, wellness, nutrition, intake, sleep and proper training.”
The hope is that this program, once completed, would give the administration a proven example of a resource that could be implemented across campus for all students.
“The goal is we’re using student athletes as a pilot program,” said Bennett. “We’re allowing Childrens’ Hospital to come in and potentially support our entire CC community.”