Over the past two years, mental health has grown as a popular and pressing topic on campus. Students discussed mental health on forums such as Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. There have been hundreds of discussions and posts—all with an overarching theme—depression. The death of 21 year old Scout Schultz (who attempted suicide years before and had clinical depression) in 2017 by a police officer and three suicides on and off campus in 2018 were four of the major incidents that contributed to the dialogue. To some on campus, these series of events come off as unexpected and surprising. However, to many others, especially students, these series of suicides were inevitable. Through the anxiety and stress of classes, it seems unsurprising that so many students struggle with their mental health. Depression is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing impairment in daily life. Our podcast, GT: The Collective Struggle encompasses stories from students living with depression on campus and insight from a professor of psychology. The Georgia Tech counseling center reports that it served 1,177 students during the 2016-2017 academic year. They had only thirteen licensed psychologists and therapists, meaning each professional served well over 100 students and had little capacity to serve other students in need of counseling services.
Our group chose to study the issue of student athlete mental health and illness. The NCAA has begun to appreciate the needs of student athletes and recognize the added pressure that comes with playing collegiate sports, however, action has yet to be taken. The main point of our podcast is that the NCAA does not do enough to protect the mental health of its student athletes and has not created a safe, and stigma free, space for them to seek help and ask questions. Evidence we used to support our claim was taken from interviews of two Division 1 athletes, an anonymous survey of student athletes on Georgia Tech’s campus, and scholarly articles related to this issue. The reason this is so important is because suicide rates have steadily increased since 1999 and college aged students are the most likely to attempt and commit suicide. Among student athletes, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
From the outside, the student-athlete life is a mirage of a fun and ease-after all, don’t athletes spend all of their time doing what they love and get scholarships for it? However, most people don’t consider what is occurring beneath the surface, and that most student athletes’ passions become their own living nightmares. College athletes experience a unique and demanding culture; wins and losses are seen by the world, stats and times are constantly being compared, and the athletes are often publicly criticized. Daily practices and conditioning, weekly games, and monthly travel competitions all in conjunction with a full academic course load lead to a tiring, lengthy, and stressful schedule. In the midst of these athletic challenges and commitments, relationships and a social life often move to the bottom of the priority list. It is no surprise that many college athletes feel that the accumulation of these pressures can affect their mental health, so why is it still unmentionable amongst athletes to talk about their concerns? We have created a podcast exploring this stigma surrounding the mental health of student athletes. Despite the fact that there has been a massive mental health awareness shift recently in society, this shift was not necessarily equally distributed throughout different communities. Although it might be socially acceptable for non-athlete college students to address their mental health issues and seek professional help, it is greatly disapproved of within the athletic community by a plethora of people. This is a major issue considering that the pressure of student-athletes to perform well in all aspects of their college career will most likely never disappear. However, introducing the idea of mental health accommodations within the athletic community would be a substantial first step to improving the quality of athletes’ lives. The podcast we created explores this phenomenon by looking at the cultural, historical, critical, and structural factors that prevent athletes from discussing and addressing their mental health.
This podcast “Progress and Stress: Hidden Lives within the Hive” focuses on the mental health of first year international students attending Georgia Tech. According to Georgia Tech’s Spring 2018 Mental Health & Well-being Population Data, 7 in 10 students reported experiencing one or more days when emotional or mental difficulties impacted their academic performance in the past four weeks; however, 6 in 10 students reported managing their stress well in healthy ways. Although these statistics, and a few others, are reported on Georgia Tech’s Health Initiatives website, there are little to none that pertain solely to international students. Through a series of twenty minute interviews from three international first year students, Helya Taghian, Joaquin Uriarte, and Magdiel Batista, the podcast analyzes stress-inducing factors that international students may experience.