Over the past six months, the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department has significantly increased its resources to support athletes struggling with mental health, in an effort to provide teammates, coaches, support staff, and others with the tools they need. I have. I need it.
New UW Deputy Athletic Director Marcus Sedbury said mental health was a frequent topic in an interview with Athletic Director Chris McIntosh.
UW informed me about their mental health efforts, but one problem remained that made me feel uncomfortable. It would have been impossible to write this article without mentioning the tragedy of Sarah Shulze.
A member of the women’s cross-country and track and field teams, Schulze died by suicide in mid-April. This tragedy has created an urgent need within the department to ensure athletes have what they need to cope with their mental health struggles.
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“Sarah’s tragedy touches us all,” Sedbury said. “What it does is it gives us the opportunity to look in the mirror and learn from the situation. When it’s your own, it’s certainly a painful and deep blow. The opportunity to learn from it is something we take very seriously.”
The Schulze family has understandably remained silent since announcing Sarah’s death the week after it occurred, admitting she took her own life. The two sisters announced the formation of the Sarah Schultz Foundation on
Scott Schulze and I spoke for just over 45 minutes Thursday night, spanning two phone calls, and it became clear that the family was working through the pain.
“We try to make Sarah happy,” he said. “It’s part of her legacy.”
‘More work to do’
UW has a comprehensive mental health emergency plan and provides training for athletes, coaches and others on mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
The Schulze family, through Sarah’s foundation, has offered to fund suicide prevention training for all athletes and coaches through the QPR Institute. QPR stands for Question, Persuasion and Reference.
“As a foundation, we try to fill the gaps where resources are limited and communicate that we can do something,” said Scott Shulze.
Officials in the physical education department say that even before Sarah Schulz’s death, plans were being made to significantly increase the staff of psychologists in the company. Doug Tiedt, senior associate athletic director of student services at the University of Washington, said the decision was made after an internal evaluation in 2021.
UW has two full-time psychologists and has added four this year, including two starting Mondays. and divides time between the physical education department and university health services.
With a ratio of about 1 provider for every 200 student-athletes at UW, which is about four times the standard set of counseling centers nationwide, according to David Lacocque, Ph.D., director of UW’s division of clinical and sports psychology.
If UW athletes are seeking a more appropriate identity, referrals to a diverse group of six community providers or to Dr. Claudia Reardon, UW’s board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sports psychiatry, are available. You can also introduce
Lacocque said over 180 UW athletes have been seen in clinical settings during the 2021-22 season. However, he believes that number should increase this year as UW introduces initiatives aimed at increasing mental health awareness and access.
“NCAA research shows that this is the number one health concern for student-athletes,” said Lacocque. “So I can get out of bed in the morning. I have work to do.”
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Key initiatives for the 2022-23 season include Lacock and his staff getting out of the office more often and working to create a “health-promoting environment”.
Each of the six staff members of UW’s Department of Clinical and Sports Psychology is assigned to multiple teams and visits each team three times each semester for educational sessions on mental health. exists.
“Sit down and talk and find out what questions they have,” says Lacocque. “It’s about making sure the coaches introduce us (the athletes) and know how to identify the signs of mental health. I knew that if coaching was available, I would want to participate.”
Lacocque put together a one-hour workshop aimed at helping UW staff better understand how to spot and respond to athletes who may have mental health issues. He recently showed it to a group of his UW academic advisors, and at that session he had four referrals. One adviser took his seat because he realized he may have witnessed suicidal thoughts while working with the athlete during the workshop, he said.
“In addition to having access to good mental health care, student-athletes need to be able to count on all coaches and staff within athletics to be their mental health ally,” Lacock said. “This is a holistic environment that successfully identifies student-athletes who may need mental health care, encourages them to seek mental health and treatment when needed, and supports resilience on a daily basis. It means working towards building a
The Schulze family hopes to continue working with UW to improve mental health resources. They have spent the past four months spending a lot of time with the parents of other NCAA athletes who have died by suicide.
“It’s a tough subject. At least the openness to talk about it is a starting point and I think it’s going to be very helpful. But it’s not going away,” says Scott Shulze.
The Schulze family hopes that part of Sarah’s legacy is that her death may save the lives of others.
“We are trying and will continue to try,” said Scott Shulze. “I think there is an opportunity for positive change here.”
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