Trigger Warning: Mentions of mental health struggles and suicide appear throughout this article.

The landscape of college athletics continues to grow as the NCAA becomes a multimillion-dollar corporation. Even with the organization's prosperity, a mental health pandemic affects college athletes.

The NCAA and major universities seem more concerned with making money than giving their athletes mental health resources. College athletes are seen as a number filling a quota rather than people with needs.

sports field mental health

Photo of an empty sports field on campus

In a 2022 study by the NCAA, research found that college athletes are dealing with exhaustion, anxiety and depression nearly twice as much as before the pandemic. Additionally, the number of athlete suicides this year has risen to four as of August. College athletes' pressure is astronomical, and tragedies like these affect their families and teammates.

A notable case is Stanford soccer star Katie Meyer who took her own life due to distress. After an incident where Meyer dumped coffee on a football player accused of sexually assaulting one of her teammates, the university jumped into action, saying that she would be removed from the institution due to the coffee incident.

Meyer's family is suing Stanford, stating the discipline led directly to her death. Instead of counseling the women's soccer team, they jumped to protect a football player that should not have been on campus in the first place. The big question is why this is happening.

A college athlete's daily grind is brutal and filled with classes, lifts, practices and team meetings. This schedule takes up every part of the day while athletes struggle to find time to eat and do homework. It is not a healthy way to live and asks too much of college athletes.

The sad reality is that some coaches who should be protecting athletes are the root cause of this mental stress. Many love their athletes as their own, but some let the power get to their heads. East Tennessee State fired softball Head Coach Belinda Hendrix on Nov. 15 after two former student-athletes came out on social media stating she was mentally and verbally abusive.

Moreover, college athletes face a mental toll from social media. If they miss a shot or fumble on the goal line, fans immediately go to Twitter or Instagram, bashing them for their failure. We forget these are 18-22-year-olds doing their best.

College should be a place where we are given tools to grow as people and think critically. During this time, failing or messing up is normal for the regular college student. However, college athletes do not have this luxury and must deal with added pressure. We tell these athletes to be tough because they somehow "asked" for this treatment. This argument has no place in our society because college athletes are not public figures.

All these factors play into the mental health pandemic facing college athletes. Many continue to ask what the NCAA is doing to combat this problem. The organization has a website with mental health resources, but they are a brief overview of documents that say what strides they are taking. It needs to list programs they have or resources in place to deal with mental health.

The problem is college athletes fall right into the tragic NCAA system of suffocation leading to these present issues. We grieve for a short time before jumping back into the money-making game. To universities, as long as the teams are doing well, that is all that matters.

In the wake of these tragedies are teammates and parents who will never see their kids or friends experience milestones. We expect athletes to pick up the pieces when they have nowhere to turn. This is not acceptable, and we have to be better for college athletes so they can have a brighter future.