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Student athletes battle through mental illness

Rebeca Mertins Chiodini
Senior sprinter Lucia Herrero Yanez running a relay during a Murray State home meet.

Mental health is an important factor in everyone’s everyday life. But for those who are juggling many different jobs or responsibilities at once, it can be challenging to manage mental health.

Student athletes, for example, have to juggle school, sports and a social life all at one time. According to a study published by the NCAA in December 2023, mental health problems for student athletes have “generally improved” since 2020, but are still at high levels.

Lucia Herrero Yanez, a senior sprinter for Murray State’s track and field team, said the athletes have little to no time to do a lot of their work, compared to non-athletes.

“Track season is a lot for us right now,” Herrero Yanez said. “We’re traveling a lot, which means we’re missing a lot of classes. It’s just hard because we don’t have the same amount of time as a normal student.”

Lily Fischer, senior infielder for the Murray State softball team, said her busy spring semesters leave her little time for social life outside of softball and school. 

“I am an anxious person, which does not help with being a student athlete,” Fischer said. “The stress definitely builds up when we are in season because we are constantly missing class, having to reschedule tests, meeting with professors and advisors to try and not fall behind. I also always want to be my best self, perform my best and succeed for myself. When that is lacking, it is easy to fall into a spiral mentally.”

Overall, across the 23,272 student athletes (14,001 men, 9,271 women) that participated in the NCAA’s survey, 17% of men said they felt overwhelmed by all that they had to do, and 44% of women shared the same feelings of being overwhelmed.

Those numbers decreased from fall  2021, with the men’s percentage dropping by eight points, but numbers still remain high.

The numbers were also high for those who felt that academic worries were a leading force of their mental health. 30% of men and 45% of women agreed that academic worries affected their health negatively.

Herrero Yanez said she agrees with the numbers, as she finds herself dealing with a lot of stress because of the amount of work she has to do.

“Most students, when they are done with classes for the day, they just go home and do their homework,” Herrero Yanez said. “For me, we got to practice first, then we won’t start homework till around 8 p.m. Normal students might be going to bed or winding down around that time.”

Fischer also pointed out that a lack of social life can make things more difficult during the season, as she spends most of her time at the field or doing school work.

Redshirt senior infielder Lily Fischer throws the ball. (Rebeca Mertins Chiodini)

“During the spring season it is hard to have a social life due to the schedule we have,” Fischer said. “But when we have an off day every week, I know a lot of my teammates take that time to shop, hang out with each other but also take time for themselves. Being a student athlete comes with choices, and you make the choice to lose some of that social life to master our crafts.”

For international students, the problems are higher as they aren’t able to see their family as often. Herrero Yanez came to Murray State from Spain. She said it’s a struggle during track season as she doesn’t get to be with her parents during the semester.

“This is my fifth year here, but my first year was really tough,” Hererro Yanez said. “I was not used to Murray and my English was not very good. But as I’ve been here, I’ve gotten more comfortable and gotten to know people. However, the second semester is the hardest because I don’t see my parents until summer. So It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them, and I just can’t wait to go home.”

Mental health can be difficult to handle, but Fischer said she has found all kinds of tricks to keep herself sane in times of high stress, including listening to music, or playing games with friends on off days.

“Finding time for myself is a huge way I deal with that stress and anxiety,” Fischer said. “On the flip side, I also like to keep myself busy, whether that is catching up on school work, going on a walk and listening to music, playing pickleball, and reading. Speaking with others and sharing my thoughts are also helpful because it lets others help me, also a good cry will always do the trick.”

Student athletes struggle with mental health everyday, just like every other person. But where normal students have time to catch up on homework or chill out, that time isn’t there for the athletes. It’s an everlasting battle that players are still trying to master.


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About the Contributors
Jakob Milani
Jakob Milani, Sports Editor
Jakob Milani is all about sports. He joined the staff of The Murray State News in 2020 as a sports writer, assigned to women's basketball, and by fall 2021 was named Sports Editor. He is a dedicated lover of all things Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears related, and loves to talk about all things sports. He is a co-host of "The Iron Grid" podcast with fellow sports writer Ronan Summers, and only ever watches ESPN in his down time. Aside from sports, Jakob also has a passion for music and baking. His favorite artists include Nirvana, Travis Scott, and Queen. His favorite item to bake is cheesecake.
Rebeca Mertins Chiodini
Rebeca Mertins Chiodini, Photography Editor
Rebeca Mertins Chiodini began photographing for The News in fall 2022 and began Photo Editor in 2023. She loves to photograph all things sports, but especially baseball. A journalism major, she minors in Spanish and Photography.

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