Monitor mental health of young athletes, Dayton Children’s doctors tell parents

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 @ 11:33 PM

Doctors from Dayton Children's Hospitals encouraged parents to be proactive in encouragement and limiting social media use to better help student athletes battle depression and stress at a forum Wednesday.

The on-field performance for the young athlete can bring a lot of pressure and parents have to make sure they monitor the mental health of that athlete, Dayton Children’s doctors said at a community conversation Wednesday night. 

Parents and guardians should focus on the process that comes from participating in sports, not the outcome, physicians told their in-person and online audience. 

The session, billed as a community conversation at MVP - Home of the Dayton Classics in West Carrollton, focused on the hidden world of athletes and their mental health. 

Content Continues Below

Two recent suicides among high school athletes have left many parents struggling, hospital officials said. 

Athletic programs have many benefits, but the stress of excelling in a sport often brings additional pressures of perfection to the already stressful life of a teenager. 

As suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth, one of the guiding questions for the session was "how can parents and coaches support their young athletes in coping with these pressures?" 

The conversation was streamed on Facebook LIVE for parents and teenagers not able to attend. 

Lora Scott, a sports medicine physician at Children's, suggested that parents and guardians say this to their young athlete: "Not that you were the star athlete but hey, you were a leader, you're a hard worker, you're really passionate about what you do." 

The physicians also stressed that exposure to social media doesn't make handling the young athlete's mental health any easier. 

Gregory Ramey, a child psychologist at Children's, said social media is a major contributing factor to issues of mental health and the youth athlete. 

"Parents, put some limits on the darn iPhone," he said. "No power on after 9 p.m. No use of that at night. Limit YouTube usage." 

One other signal parents need to look for is how the young athlete deals with an injury that keeps them off the field or court. That scenario tends to put the young athlete most at risk for depression, Ramey and Scott said. 

COMING UP

The Dayton Daily News Path Forward team is taking a deep dive into what can be done to improve mental health outcomes for youth in our community. 

That series will begin in the coming weeks. 

HOW TO GET HELP 

People in need can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor, 24/7. 

The national crisis text line can be accessed by texting CONNECT to 741741. 

An online chat option is available by going to suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ and entering your ZIP code.