Mental Health Awareness: Uprooting the past playbook

Riverside City College
Riverside City College

RIVERSIDE - Athletics is a tough world. Almost to a fault.

The notion of winning at all costs is deeply rooted in past playbooks. Do not show weakness, push through the pain, what only kills you makes you stronger

Athletes are tabbed weak or incapable if they fail to follow suit with this line of thinking. It's the classic saying from a 1992 movie A League of Their Own – "There's no crying in baseball!."

Not true, far from it.

While some of these notions may continue to lie in the undertones of hardnose athletics, it is this generation's duty to elevate mental health awareness. Its importance is bigger than any red zone push or gunning the tying run down at home plate.

From professional athletes like Kevin Love and Olympic legends like Simone Biles, mental health awareness is crucial and should be at the forefront of the athletic scene.

Research was conducted on 5,412 Americans and found since the March shutdown, the Center of Disease Control reported 40.9% of respondents experienced some form of mental health, substance abuse, or suicidal ideation. These included, but were not limited to, anxiety disorder, depression disorder and trauma and stressor-related disorder related to the pandemic.

Of those surveyed, 25.5% were in the 18-24 years old range. Of the 731 young adults, 13.3.% considered suicide within 30 days of the survey, while 10.3% of the initial group had lingering thoughts of suicide the following 30 days.

Substance abuse played a major role in the survey with 26.3% of people starting or increasing substance abuse to cope with the stress or emotions dealing with effects of the pandemic.

The majority of Riverside City College's student-athlete population are 18-24 years old, a recent study found that 74.9% displayed signs and symptoms of mental or behavioral health.

Age Group 18-24 years (731 surveyed (13.4%) )

Anxiety Disorder


Depressive Disorder


Anxiety or Depressive Disorder


COVID-19 Related TSRD


Increased Substance Abuse due to COVID-19


Seriously Considered Suicide in the past 30 days


One or more Mental/Behaviors Health Symptom



It is another classic saying in the world of athletics – numbers don't lie.

In comparing last quarter's mental health reports, data showed an astonishing three times higher rate in diagnosed mental health issues in the 18-24 years old range, thus proving that the shutdown negatively affected a significant amount of the population. 

It is evident impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown have run deeper than losing lives to the tragic pandemic.

The NCAA conducted a Student-Athlete Well-Being Study that examined the impact of COVID-19 on the physical and mental health of student-athletes during the spring and fall 2020 seasons. In the survey 24,974 student-athletes participated, research showed that "rates of reported mental health concerns experienced within the last month were 1.5 to two times higher than have been historically reported by NCAA student-athletes in pre-pandemic studies."

Student-athletes noted academic worries (43%), lack of access to sport (33%), COVID-19 health concerns (31%) and financial worries (24%) as the top factors negatively affecting their mental health.

Furthermore, student-athletes indicated that emotional barriers were influencing their ability to train including lack of motivation (24%), feelings of stress or anxiety (17%) and sadness or depression (10%).

RCC men's basketball freshman guard Xavier Ford, a standout player on the conference championship team, has been an advocate for mental health awareness since the suspension of athletic competition.

"I know for a lot of people during these times mental health has been a big problem," said Ford. "I have my own struggles early in quarantine. I encourage everyone to go and check [the resources] out."

Both the College and athletic department recognizes this issue and are here to help.

Newly hired Athletic Director, Payton Williams, understands the importance of providing quality support to our student-athletes in need. "Our department wants to be a part of the solution to break the stigma surrounding mental health," said Williams

"We want our Tiger student-athletes to know that we care about them and support them, not just athletically, but academically and personally as well.  RCC has tremendous college resources that confidentially and professional assist student-athletes with their mental health needs."

The athletics department, pioneered by the Athletic training staff, has constructed strong mental health protocols that assist struggling student-athletes. Whether it is a concerned party or a student-athlete who seeks out help, the training staff is here to help.

"It is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about," said Co-Head Athletic Trainer Nate Swift. "We all go through it at some point in our lives and seeking help is a sign of someone who is strong, not weak."

An open line of communication is the key to assisting a struggling individual.

"We have continued to maintain open, confidential line of communication with our student-athletes," said Swift. "For any reason they deem they need to see us, we put them in touch with the right people to seek the help they need and deserve." 

The protocol is simple and streamlined. It reads as follows:

"Upon referral and ultimate treatment in a mental health crisis the athletic trainer will follow-up with involved mental health providers to ensure smooth transition to return to play, if applicable. It is imperative to note that the athletic trainers are to only include those that the student-athlete wants involved. If the student-athlete does not want parents, coaches, professors, or Riverside City College personnel to become aware of the mental health concern the athletic trainer is dutifully required to oblige, unless the safety of the athlete is in jeopardy."

The training staff collaborates with the Student Health and Psychological Services, to provide various workshops, resources and outlets to treat all forms of mental health.

"We are creating a basic infrastructure for RCC by training and establishing key gatekeeper staff, establishing a peer-to-peer program, providing prevention education events, and designing a crisis intervention plan in order to make referrals for on-campus programs and community resources," said Dr. Renee Martin-Thorton, PHD, MSN/MBA, RN Director of Student Health and Psychological Services.

"According to the Active Minds organization, suicide is the number two leading cause of death among students and 67 percent of college students say they first tell a friend they are feeling suicidal before seeking assistance."

"Riverside City College's student population reflects the socio-economic and ethnic diversity of the region it serves, which suffers from higher poverty rates (16 percent of the total population and 23.4 percent of children) and low socio-economic mobility (7 percent), both of which are indicators for higher levels of daily stress that can lead to physical and mental health issues," Said Martin-Thorton. "RCC is taking a proactive approach to student mental health needs."

If you or anyone you know needs mental health support, a local team of experts is available. Below are their contact numbers and web links.

Mental Health Resources

Student Health & Psychological Services

(951) 222-8151

Campus Safety/Security

(951) 222-8171

CREST Team (Community Response Evaluation and Support Team

(951) 715-5040

City of Riverside Police

(951) 826-5700

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(800) 273-8225 (TALK)

Youth Talk Line

(800) 246-7743

Riverside County 24HR Detox Referral Line

(951) 955-2100

Crisis Text Line

"COURAGE" to 741741


(Nicho DellaValle, Riverside City College Athletics)