Texas A&M soccer player advocates for student-athlete’s mental health

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - For many athletes, the pressure to perform can be too much.

“I was just incredibly anxious all the time, especially when it came to soccer. Where soccer was normally my place to come and have fun and let loose,” said Texas A&M senior forward, Ali Russell.

Russell has been playing soccer since she was 3-years-old but it wasn’t until this year the she realized the sport she loved was also harming her.

“I didn’t notice that I struggled with mental health regarding athletics up until last semester. And it had been something I struggled with since I got here,” said Russell. “So it took three years for me to figure it out.”

But it’s not just Russell who has been battling with her mental health, at least five collegiate athletes across the country have died by suicide since March.

“The rise in suicides across athletics has probably touched me more so recently than it ever has before,” said Russell.

Texas A&M athletics is proactive in prioritizing mental health. Yet, sports psychologist Ryan Pittsinger still worries that one day it could be one of his athletes.

“A lot of the people that complete suicide, they are the ones that haven’t reached out,” explained Pittsinger. “And so, I do worry about it.”

According to Athletes for Hope, one in every three college students experience significant symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.

“One of the things we often forget is that student-athletes are students and humans first,” said Pittsinger.

Dr. Pittsinger and Russell have worked together to created an organization where student-athletes can be open about their mental health.

“[We] came up with ‘FACE’ Mental Health, which is fostering athletes continued excellence...We can just grow together, learn together and hopefully make a difference and make an impact and save lives,” said Russell.

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