ACC continues its priorities surrounding mental health and wellness initiatives

Greensboro, NC – Building upon its previous initiatives and the overall priority to keep mental health awareness as a significant focus, the Atlantic Coast Conference has announced several initiatives and offerings as it continues its leadership role in student-athlete health and safety. 

photo by Nik Shuliahin

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, including mental health and wellness, remains one of our top priorities,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “Our conference will continue to take a leadership role as now, more than ever, it’s critical to ensure our student-athletes, coaches and administrators have available resources and educational materials as we face unprecedented challenges in college athletics.”

Last May, the league hosted the first ACC Mental Health and Wellness Summit in Durham, North Carolina. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the second summit, which was scheduled for May 18-19 in Charlotte, North Carolina, was canceled. However, the league moved quickly to provide mental health support throughout the ACC, beginning with an April 14 webinar (“Student-Athlete Mental Health During COVID-19”) that attracted more than 400 participants in conjunction with Active Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness among college students, via peer-to-peer dialogue and interaction.

Building off the April event, and in an effort to bring extra focus during Mental Health Awareness month (May), the ACC began distributing a series of videos and educational materials each Monday. Videos include “Sleep: The No. 1 Factor in Performance,” “Supporting Athletes Experiencing Athletic Injury” and “College Coaching and Mental Health: Top 5 Challenges Faced Today.”

The ACC will also host virtual QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training on May 19 (1-3 p.m.) and May 21 (1-3 p.m.). QPR Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention is an educational workshop designed to teach the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond. 

In addition to the development of educational materials and virtual events, mental health professionals within the ACC host a monthly conference call in which they share best practices around education and methods of treatment. Videos and resources are available on the ACC Mental Health web page.

ACC Mental Health & Wellness webinars and videos
April 14 webinar & May 4 video: Student-Athlete Mental Health During COVID-19 | Watch
Presenters: Kristen Mackel, LCSW, Lead Clinical Counselor (Pittsburgh); Dr. Bailey Nevels, Coordinator of Psychological Health Services for Student-Athletes (Clemson); Courtney Jones, student-athlete (Clemson)

Millions of students are experiencing the impact of COVID-19. This is especially true for student athletes, who may be struggling with disruptions to their schedule and training, disconnection from their teammates, or feeling disappointed about the canceled season. Fortunately, mental health practitioners and athletic departments in the ACC are meeting this challenge by providing online support and other resources.

May 11: Sleep: The No. 1 Factor in Performance | Watch
Presenter: Dr. Jarrod Spencer – Mind of the Athlete

Sleep is the No. 1 factor that impacts an athlete’s performance. Yet most people, and especially athletes, feel tired, overextended or overwhelmed. The cause of this perpetual feeling is sleep deprivation. Ultimately, the rise of mental health concerns, particularly anxiety, has their roots in sleep deprivation due to cell phone addiction. This video will draw the connection between performance, sleep, cell phones and mental health.

May 18: Supporting Athletes Experiencing Athletic Injury
Presenters: Dr. Karen Egan – Associate Sport Psychologist (Virginia); Dr. Jason Freeman – Sport Psychologist (Virginia); Dr. Jeni Shannon – Director of the Carolina Athletics Mental Health and Performance Psychology Program (North Carolina); Dr. Paul Knackstedt – Staff Counselor (Virginia Tech)

This video will help viewers understand how athletic injury impacts well-being and mental health. We will explore how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors impact outcomes from athletic injury. We will discuss strategies to provide support to student-athletes who have experienced athletic injury and identify strategies to provide support to student-athletes who have medically retired.

May 19 & May 21: QPR Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention, 1-3 p.m.
QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention is an educational workshop designed to teach lay and professional “gatekeepers” the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond. Join Active Minds for an in-depth training that explores the reality of suicide in the United States, myths and misperceptions, and tangible skills on how to respond when someone is struggling. Capacity for this event is limited.

May 25: College Coaching and Mental Health: Top 5 Challenges Faced Today
Presenters: Dr. Christopher Peters – Sports Psychiatrist (Louisville, Norton Healthcare); Dr. Vanessa Shannon – Sports Psychologist (Louisville, Norton Healthcare)

Viewers will develop an understanding of the developmental tasks the college student-athlete is traversing toward adulthood (i.e. transitional developmental phase). Discussion will include the top 10 list of challenges for coaches in managing the mental health and wellbeing of the college student-athlete. We will also provide recommendations to coaches about ways to assist the student-athlete who has mental health needs during the college experience.