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'It could help bond all sports:' UCCS rolls out new program to help students athletes with their mental health

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-20 12:18:29-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A local university is rolling out a new program to help their student athletes with their mental health.

Starting this fall, all 350 athletes at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs will participate in the Mountain Lion Strong program. It is a comprehensive educational program to help them gain tools and resources to support identity development, healthy relationships, goal setting and holistic wellness.

UCCS is one of five institutions to receive the NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant. The university plans to use the $17,000 grant to develop the new program which will utilize a tiered, progressive, and multifaceted approach.

"I am a huge advocate for mental health. A lot of our teammates wear green ribbons on our shoes last year for mental health, I never take off this wristband off for mental health awareness. I have a couple of family members who struggle with mental health so I am a big advocate for anything that has to do with mental health because it is not talked about enough," said Hannah Ammerman, Senior at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

She is going into her fifth year at the university.

"During the five years I've been here, I've had a part time job, and I've also been a full time student, and full time athlete," said Ammerman.

Which has taken a toll on her mental health.

"There have definitely been days where I have had a mental breakdown and my coaches are like what is happening, and I'm like I don't even know what is happening," said Ammerman.

Impacting the sport she loves the most, and her fellow teammates.

"When I can't come in and lead, it is going to affect my team. When I come in and shut down and I am not talking or leading, my team struggles," said Ammerman.

"We will be able to teach them foundation and skill building like identity development, time management, healthy behaviors, overall wellness, and mental health support," said Jessica Kirby, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences, University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

The program will incorporate psychoeducation for student-athletes and coaches, peer wellness leaders, expanded mental health screenings and suicide prevention training with the goal to improve and optimize the psychological well-being of UCCS student-athletes, while reducing mental health stigma.

"All of our athlete administrators, coaches, peer leaders, and team captains will be trained on suicide prevention so that is going to really cut down on that stigma on mental health," said Kirby.

"I do think it can help bond all teams and all sports because you all are experiencing the same thing and coming from really hard pasts," said Ammerman.