How Scarlet Knights are addressing mental health

Greg Schiano reaches into his pocket, pulls out his iPhone and holds it up.

“This thing right here has created something that never was,” Schiano said at Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis last week. “I call it the comparison life. They live a comparison life through social media.”

That comparison life applies to college students across the country, but social media exasperates the pressures that are already on athletes, particularly college football players who often draw the brightest spotlight and the sharpest scrutiny.

And along with various other pressures – from the advent of Name, Image and Likeness to simply the task of performing at a high level in big-time college athletics – the strain on the mental health of athletes continues to grow.

Schiano said addressing mental health has always been important, but now more so than ever.

And it’s why Rutgers football, under the guidance of Dr. Peter Economou, the school’s director of behavioral health and sport psychology, has developed a multitude of ways for players to seek help should they need it.

Nov 20, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; A detailed view of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football helmets during a warmup prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

“In our field of sports psychology, when I teach it – that’s one of the unique things we do here is that I’m an academic, so I bridge the gap between academics and athletic − you’re using research and really applying what we’re learning in the laboratory,” Economou said. “So we kind of think of ourselves as anthropologists because it’s newly integrating into sports.”

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