The NCAA’s first chief medical officer, Brian Hainline, was the special guest at a mental health roundtable at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The event, hosted by Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson on August 22, brought together two dozen faculty, staff, and students from across campus to improve awareness and treatment of mental health among student athletes and the greater Tech community.
Hainline, who took on his current role in 2013, discovered early on that addressing mental health issues was the top priority of the NCAA student-athlete advisory committee. Today, the NCAA offers a seven-hour mental health best practices course for NCAA member institutions such as Georgia Tech.
Approximately one in five adults experience mental illness in a given year, and this rate tends to be highest among young adults (including college students). Hainline, who noted that mental health disorders affect two percent of athletes, believes that collegiate athletics can serve as a subculture for the correct handling of mental health issues on campuses.
A key leader at the roundtable was Angelo Galante, a physician with Georgia Tech’s Stamps Health Services division, who stressed the need for better access to mental health counseling. Students can be reluctant to seek help and are even more reluctant to involve their parents, according to Galante and Kristen Turner, case manager at Stamps Health Services.
In addition to their many amenities, Stamps Health Services also provides general psychiatric services to undergraduate and graduate students and their spouses. The clinic’s board-certified psychiatrists and care coordinators also collaborate with the Georgia Tech counseling center, part of the Georgia Tech Division of Student Life, to ensure students receive comprehensive care. Galante wants students that feel they need help, as quickly as they can, to set up an appointment with Stamps Health Services.
Leah Thomas, a director in Georgia Tech’s athletic department, supervises Tech’s Total Person program and raised awareness about their successful program during the roundtable. The program is based on the belief that excellence is a result of a balanced life that encompasses academic excellence, athletic achievement, and personal well-being. Tech’s program focuses on leadership development, professional development, personal growth and wellness, and community service. The program maintains a contractual clinical and sports psychologist that can assist student-athletes. Due to the existence of the Total Person concept, Georgia Tech was involved in the development of the NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills program.
In addition to the Total Person program, Georgia Tech Athletics Director Todd Stansbury requested that a “care team” for athletes be created upon first arriving at Tech. Today, many people on the care team have close or frequent contact with athletes. This proactive approach helps to more quickly identify and assist those who may need support.
Susan Margulies, chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, identified some of the major findings at the roundtable:
* Changing perceptions and changing the culture about mental health is a need
* Access to mental health services is a persistent problem
* There is the challenge of insurance, not everyone is adequately covered to receive help
* There is a lack of transparency about the role and services provided by Georgia Tech
* There is a greater need for partnerships with mental health groups outside of Georgia Tech
Hainline commented that he was impressed by Georgia Tech’s campus-wide effort to convene such a very large and diverse group of students, faculty, and professional health care providers to address the very important topic of student mental health.
Representatives at the roundtable included John Stein, dean of students, members of the athletics department and Stamps Health Services, counselors, faculty, student-athletes, and physicians from Emory, Shepherd Center, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.