Mental Health For Athletes: Open Door Policy is a Crucial First Step, But What’s Next?

Below is the latest in a series of articles on Mental Health for Athletes, courtesy of Emily Brunemann. For more, please check out the University of Michigan’s Athletes Connected program.

When you become an adult people assume you have the answers. You have experienced life…the trials, the tribulations, the successes. Many times, this experience is why people look to you for guidance in dealing with their struggles.

The current culture pushes us to try and solve people’s problems, to help fix things with immediate solutions. The true challenge, however, may be to think differently. To think in a way that solves the problem by directing, not solving.

Instead of solving the problem, why not utilize options and tools to help a child or athlete who is struggling?

This use of resources and tools can come in handy when practicing an ‘open door’ policy. Having an ‘open door’ policy is critical in helping athletes. This is the first step in walking with them through their journey.  However, many times it is hard to find a solution when one is not fully educated in the subject matter.

It is okay to not always have the expected answer, being there, being present, having an ear to listen, and knowing when to point a loved one or athlete in the direction of professional resources, is the right answer.

Below is a list of resources compiled to help you think in a different way, a way that points a child struggling to a resource that is specialized.

Resources is a comprehensive website containing many resources including a treatment referral hotline. This help line locates providers in a given area and can serve as a starting point when seeking resources.

DBS Alliance

It can be overwhelming when trying to choose a provider that is the right fit for a loved one. The DBS Alliance is a fantastic site that gives tips on what to look for when seeking out a specific provider.

Mental Health America

Mental Health America is a wonderful tool that helps find providers that specialize in the care you are seeking for a loved one or athlete. The site is user friendly, allowing you to type in an exact location to find resources and professionals.

Active Minds

Active minds offers a wide range of resources. The site not only provides information to those who are looking for help but also provides tips and tricks to those who are looking to maintain their mental wellbeing.

About the Author:

Brunemann_EmilyEmily Brunemann is a professional swimmer, currently training with hopes of making the 2016 Olympic Team in the 10k. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2009 and is currently working on her Master’s degree in Social Work, with a concentration in interpersonal practice and mental health. Emily is interning in the University of Michigan Athletic Department counseling services and helping with the Athletes Connected program. She is a former team captain, NCAA champion, 2013 Open Water World Cup Circuit Champion and a member of the US National Team since 2007.

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7 years ago

A great article! Thank you!

I can not wait to see what else you have in store for us. As an athlete and coach that has had to deal with the challenge of mental illness this is an area that I am extremely passionate about.

It is a subject that has been underexposed for far too long.

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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