One group of college student, athletes, routinely get more access to mental health services as an effort to care for the whole athlete. This care is gaining traction, but it is fair to other students?


Studies show that more college students were struggling with mental health even before the pandemic, and schools across the country say they’re struggling to keep up with demand for services. But as Alisa Roth tells us, one group of students has an easier time getting mental health care on campus – student athletes. A warning that this story mentions suicide.

ALISA ROTH, BYLINE: All A’Shon Riggins wanted to do when he got to Indiana University was play football.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: O’Connor, late over the middle – incomplete.

ROTH: So he didn’t understand why he wasn’t happy even when he played well and his team won.



A’SHON RIGGINS: I really didn’t know what was going on at the time of – like, aware of my body, my mental health or anything like that.

ROTH: He says that as a man who’s Black and who plays football, mental health was not something he ever talked about.

RIGGINS: I’ve always heard, you know, if you go see sports psychologists, like, oh, you’re crazy.

ROTH: During his junior year, though, he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after he tried to end his own life. As a football player, Riggins could see a counselor in the athletic department right away, for as many sessions as he needed and at no cost. Same is true for all student athletes at IU. Athletes at more and more schools now have quicker, easier access to mental health care. The question is whether that’s fair to their classmates who don’t play sports. Robin Scholefield is in charge of mental health for the athletic department at the University of Southern California. She says it’s no different than athletics hiring nutritionists or tutors.

ROBIN SCHOLEFIELD: It’s labor-intensive with people who are highly educated, and it’s expensive. So it’s a values-based decision. It’s not a financial decision.

ROTH: Except that some schools …….


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