COLUMBUS (WCMH) — When Ryan Day was hired as Ohio State’s head football coach at the end of the 2018 season, he pledged to help support his players by increasing mental heath support opportunities for players. Since then, OSU has more than doubled its sports psychology staff. Four full-time therapists now work in the department and with the COVID-19 shutdown, they’ve encountered new issues to resolve with students.
“There’s been a stigma attached to getting help mentally,” Day said. “Proud to say I think Ohio State is on the forefront of this.”
Dr. Jamey Houle, lead sports psychologist at Ohio State, was joined Wednesday by Day and OSU basketball coach Chris Holtmann for a teleconference on how OSU is trying to boost support for the mental health concerns of athletes.
“That advocacy is unbelievable,” Houle said. “It really opens doors for the athletes to see us as regular folks that they can talk to.”
Many therapists attend practices and meet regularly with teams, so their faces are more familiar to the students. Houle says as many as a fourth of OSU’s student athletes have received services from his staff.
Houle and his staff have tried to reach out to athletes who are now at home since OSU’s campus and facilities are closed. They’ve participated in Zoom meetings and other virtual methods to follow up with athletes.
“They’re dealing with all the same things the rest of us are,” said Dr. Chelsi Day, a sports psychologist at OSU. “It’s been really amazing to watch the resiliency and see them connect and build each other up and engage with us in new and interesting ways.”
Holtmann handled a high-profile mental health issue this past season as freshman star D.J. Carton took a leave of absence in January to address his mental health. Carton never returned to the team and has since transferred to Marquette.
“We’ve had more students come through my office and ask for help in the last five years than in the previous 15 years I was in coaching,” Holtmann said.
Day and Houle both say social media has provided an outlet for many young athletes, which can be unhealthy.
“It’s very important to them, even though we can tell them a billion times until we’re blue in the face that it doesn’t matter,” Day said. “It does to them.