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It Is Time To Expand Support

Let me preface the start of this blog that it is not meant to be political so do not interpret it in that manner. Instead, it is more of a reference that in order to continue to reduce the stigma of mental health supports for students, athletes, and people in general we need to continue to find ways to increase support mental health supports and opportunities in any and every way we can think of.

it is not a surprise that there is a growing mental health crisis. It is all over the news media and statistics back it up. It was starting to brew before the pandemic, but the pandemic exacerbated this fact. However, this exacerbation was easily seen and predictable, but ignored for reasons we will not go into. As we said, there is an increase in anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and all other areas of mental health given the stress of the pandemic. However, that is just one area of growing need. now we have been reading reports of student-athletes struggling with mental health as well. Some of it is related to societal stresses, some sport specific. Story after story have been coming out of student athletes, and sometimes even higher athletes struggling with mental health. There have been several high profile suicides of athletes succumbing to the pressures of new level of play. Also there are many more who are now discussing the mental effects of struggling with physical injuries that are having life long effects on them. For athletes as well, who knows what will happen as the name, image, and likeness demands increase.

The above are the challenges of the sports world, but we cannot neglect the other aspects of society. As we eluded to, academic pressures are up as kids adjust back to the fact that expectations had been lowered, and are now back to baseline. Separation has led to many challenges with social skills and developing relationships. General clients are struggling with work demands and adjusting to the many uncertainties in that environment. All of these new changes are also exacerbating factors on a growing mental health crisis.

For these many reasons it is time we re-evaluate the need the need to increase mental health supports in as many areas as possible. At least the stigma has been reduced, and now is the time to capitalize on it.

There are some challenges with to accomplish this goal however. First, is simply money. Having the supports available costs money. While finding funds is nice and important, we will have to make sure it is smart, targeted, and efficient spending. Simply increasing funding will never stop help the mental health challenges as throwing bad money at a complex problem is just simply dumb. We also have to address the lack of professionals that exist to begin with. in general we are struggling with an ever reducing number of mental health professionals. For those that work with students, schools have more need than providers that work there can manage. In the sport world, there is an ever growing demand, and even mandate for services for athletes. Despite many schools wanting, or sort of trying to have these professionals on staff, they often decide to check the box and just refer to the general counseling center. All this does is move the problem from one department to another. In fact the check the box phenomenon is the new ways that many organizations make it seem like they are providing mental health support, but in reality are just fixing the numbers or optics. It makes it look like the problem is being addressed, when in reality it is just an illusion.

Given these impressions, one can easily see why the argument that it is time to expand support. It just has to be done creatively, and in a way that works. We already noted the smart spending, but what else? First, it is time for schools to explore more private partnerships or collaborations. To accomplish this much of the barriers and red tape will need to be reduced to make it easier for schools to contract with private providers. As a private provider, I appreciate the referrals from school systems, but a more formal relationship would better benefit both sides. This is even more true for athletes. Rather than relying solely on general counseling centers to support student-athletes, finding providers who work privately and contracting with them would better serve clients, and actually would be more cost effective. Telehealth opportunities have really opened this door more, but in order to expand that we need more flexibility with licensing laws. Right now, many restrict clients that go to college continuing the preexisting relationships or building new ones with providers who have the appropriate skill sets simply because of licensing reasons. The second next significant change that needs to be made to expand mental health support.

While telehealth is technology related, perhaps one of the biggest ways to expand mental health support is to lean more on other aspects of technology. We have the rapidly expanding fields of data assessment and analysis, Artificial Intelligence, and machine learning. No I am not talking about using robots as therapists as that is a terrible idea. However, using these other technology approaches could really make a therapist's job faster, more efficient, and directive. Also it can help with development of helping clients practice and learn mental health skills faster and on their own time through targeted treatment approaches. These approaches, if done correctly by real professionals, can have a significant benefit to clients. In fact, even developing them and having clients learn to use them preemptively may help many in society find support before symptoms even rise to the level of needing in-depth treatment. Finally, there has to be a shift from many ''old school therapists'' who are afraid to embrace even the smallest of technology shifts. They are missing out on opportunities to really grow the field and expand supports, and still provide high quality care.

This recent blog is just a brief commentary on the the need to expand support in different context for general clients, students, and athletes. I hope that this blog just starts the conversation about challenges and solutions to address this growing need to Expand Support. In the meantime, feel free to reach out directly to Peak Mental Performance Coaching should either you, your child, or organization is in need of support.


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