Positively Promoting the Student Athlete Since 1992

Illini Athletics Launches Mental Wellness Digital Resources for Open Doors Campaign

CHAMPAIGN, Ill — The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Sport Medicine Department has launched its digital resources for its Student-Athlete Mental Wellness Campaign called Open Doors, including a new website, social media platforms and relevant content development. The launch coincides with May’s National Mental Health Month in an increased effort help better serve the more than 500 Fighting Illini student-athletes.

“While we have been investing in mental health for our student-athletes for some time, we felt we needed to create an easy one-stop site for all our resources,” Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Randy Ballard said. “When you are struggling, even the thought of finding help can be overwhelming, so not only is this website convenient for our student-athletes, hopefully it can help ease some of the struggles.”

The new website on FightingIllini.com is the headquarters for student-athletes as they find the need to pursue mental wellness assistance. From blogs provided by mental health professionals to a list of events available to Illini student-athletes, all users will find the resources they need to care for themselves emotionally. The website also includes an easy to find list of Illinois’ mental health facilities and counseling providers.

To accompany the website, sports medicine has also launched a Twitter account to assist in amplifying key information geared toward helping student-athlete mental health, while on campus and beyond.

“One of the secondary goals of this campaign is to create more content to help student-athletes who aren’t quite ready to take that step to ask for help,” Ballard said. “If our blogs from professionals or testimonials from peers can help ease anyone’s pain or assist in destigmatizing their suffering, then we may see more people seeking help.”

According to statistics provided by the NCAA, about 20% of Americans 18 years or older experience a mental illness, but that percentage rises to nearly 30% for individuals in the 18-to-25 range. In a survey of nearly 200,000 college students, about one-third of them reported being depressed, while 50% said they had an overwhelming anxiety of one type or another at some stage during the last 12 months.

The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics’ (DIA) efforts toward focusing on mental health initiatives gained momentum in 2014 when its sports medicine department launched a program entitled “I-Perform”. The program included not only sports medicine staff, but also individuals from strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, and select coaches.

In the summer of 2017, the DIA remodeled unused space to create a new sports medicine facility. It now houses office space for team physicians and mental health providers. A shared waiting room space helps de-stigmatize mental health by providing space for help seeking away from coaches, locker rooms and public eyes.