Bringing Mental Health Education to Coaches and Athletes in Michigan

As many of you might know, I coach high school cross country and track in Michigan and I’m required to take trainings on the sports rules and how to spot concussions. These trainings are run by the MHSAA, which is also a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Of course, with my eye for mental health and eating disorders, I noticed that there were no required trainings on how to identify mental health issues in our athletes (something I’ve already witnessed in the few years of coaching).

But when I went to the Stomp Out Stigma walk a few weeks ago, I spoke with Christy Buck, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, who shared the great news that there would now be an Action Plan implemented by the MHSAA to educate coaches on how to spot possible mental health issues in their athletes. It’s my greatest hope that we can get more trainings like this in all athletic/coaching programs, and I’m so thankful the MHSAA took this on, that I had to learn more and share:

Representing the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance with Director Gail Hall just before Christy Buck told us about the Action Plan for the MHSAA

How did you get started working with the MHSAA?

The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan (MHF) has an amazing be nice. Ambassador, Eric Hipple. If you research this former Detroit Lion Quarterback, you will quickly find his amazing story and advocacy following his and his family’s journey. Eric introduced us and the be nice. Action Plan to the MHSAA, and they found it to be a perfect fit for their coaches as they continue the conversation about mental health for players, coaches, referees and families.

How will the be nice. campaign partner with the MHSAA, and what will this entail?

The be nice. Action Plan will be part of the annual “Rules Meeting” for all coaches a part of the MHSAA, about 30,000. They will be learning, through an online course, how to notice changes in their players’ mental health, invite themselves to start a conversation with that player, challenge themselves to ask the import questions and know the next step to get that player the resources that they need, and empower with protective factors for mental health.

How will coaches benefit? And athletes?

Coaches are aware of the growing pressure on them to be an advocate for players’ mental health just as much as their physical health. They use many of these tools in the be nice. Action Plan already, but this lesson and Action Plan will empower them to know that they play a vital role in the mental health of their team. Just like they all know an Action Plan for CPR, for heart health, for concussions, they will now have the be nice. Action Plan for mental health. The design is for athletes and coaches and the community as a whole to be more mentally healthy.

Any other additional thoughts or insights we should be aware of?

Our hope is that these coaches and subsequently the school organizations that they are working with will take the next step with be nice. to affect change within their district. be nice. is set up as a sustainable school program – not one-and-done. be nice. works best as a district-wide initiative for staff, students, parents and the community as a whole. We are EXCITED!

You can learn more about the Mental Health Foundation at https://www.benice.org/

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