NJ sports governing body launches new student-athlete mental health initiative

March 7, 2020 /
Mental health has increasingly become a primary focus for sports associations and coaches around the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among those between 10 and 24 years of age.

Responding to further evidence from a recent National Athletic Trainers’ Association study that showed student-athletes tend to experience mental health challenges more frequently than non-athlete peers, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Assocation (NJSIAA) is launching a new mental health initiative aimed providing easily accessible online support.

“No one should struggle alone with mental illness,” NJSIAA executive director Larry White said in the official announcement on the association’s website. “While our focus is student-athletes, we want to support all of NJ’s youth whether they play sports or not. Our mission is to help them stay safe and healthy, on and off the field, and that’s what our mental health site is all about.”

A new page on the association’s website offers student-athletes a variety of information, including resources on mental health, inspirational stories and direct access to support hotlines and text-lines.

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All of the resources offer the option of the student-athletes remaining anonymous, along with providing 24/7 support via specialists who may also be able to make referrals or recommendations to more local resources.

In an interview with Tapinto, a local neighborhood news source in New Jersey, Ryan Miller, athletic director at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, said that he is on-board with the initiative and is glad to see the NJSIAA stepping in.

“Athletes have a high tendency to hide emotionally — especially our high performing ones,” Miller said. “Knowing that the NJSIAA takes this seriously and is willing to devote space, time, and resources toward suicide prevention is fantastic.”

To read the official press release from the NJSIAA, or to learn more about the mental health resources offered, click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in need of support, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline for free and confidential support at 1-800-273-8255, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.