NMAA launches mental health awareness initiative

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – 60,000 students participate in athletics across New Mexico. The New Mexico Activities Association said many are struggling right now with mental health amid the pandemic, so they launched a service on Monday to help kids get the resources they need.

The NMAA said they originally planned to launch a mental health campaign at the beginning of the year pre-COVID. Now, months into the pandemic, they see a need for it now more than ever.

2020 has not been easy for student-athletes. “They are missing their teammates, socialization and sports,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said. “They don’t know where to turn.”

Seasons canceled or postponed, and players are apart from their teammates and coaches. Marquez said they have seen an uptick in suicides this summer. “There have [sic] been a lot of depression and isolation,” Marquez said. “We recently had a few suicides of student-athletes, and that is just very concerning.”

Now, they are launching a mental health awareness campaign for the 2020-2021 school year which kicked off Monday. Each day this week, the NMAA will post to social media various video messages from health professionals, students, and coaches.

Monday’s message was from Lt. Gov. Howie Morales. “There are less suicides than last year at this time, but what we are also seeing is it is trending in some parts of the state which prompted coaches to reach out and ask if there was something we could do.”

For the rest of the year, the NMAA will designate Wellness Wednesdays as an opportunity to continue to promote mental health awareness accompanied by the Crisis Line phone number 1-855-662-7474 and hashtag #YouMatter. “They are losing their identity as to who they are, “Marquez said. “They are losing their routine. They do not feel like what they do, on a daily basis, matters, and we want to get out there and make sure that they understand that they do matter.”

Marquez said if they can just reach one struggling student, it will be worth it. “Maybe we will save a kid or two,” Marquez said. “Give them that hope, dream, and positive outlook on life.”

The NMAA said this is not just meant for student-athletes but any young person who may be struggling with mental health. Presbyterian is seeing a 30% increase in children and teenagers arriving in its emergency room for mental health treatment versus this time last year.

Plus, the University of New Mexico Hospital said they are seeing more young people seeking therapy or psychiatric treatment.

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