Sunday Sit Down: WVU Director of Clinical & Sports Psychology Adrian Ferrera

Breaking down the mental health conversation as it relates to student-athletes
Power outages reach day 12 for many
Published: May. 22, 2022 at 8:28 PM EDT
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - WVU Director of Clinical & Sports Psychology Adrian Ferrera joins this week’s Sunday Sit Down to break down the mental health conversation as it relates to student-athletes.

The conversation revolving around mental health is one that has become louder in recent years, but just cause the conversation is there now, doesn’t mean the struggles weren’t in the past, “I think it’s definitely been around, we just haven’t been talking about it as much, I think there’s been more publicly now where we have professional athletes talking about their mental health struggles more openly and because they’re open about it we have younger athletes who may look to them as role models or heroes if you want to use that word and they’re like oh my hero also struggles with some of the same things I struggle with so now they’re able to speak about it a little more openly,” said Ferrera.

Ferrera noted one aspect of the mental health conversation that should be included more than it is, “I think it’s staring t be a part of the conversation of athletes aren’t soft if they ask for help, I think that’s been the previous notion, that if you’re struggling with something, go figure it out on your own.”

Athletics isn’t the same as they were decades ago, the demands and stresses today aren’t the same as they were years ago, “I think sports has been glamorized on completely different level where we can watch sports 24/7 where before we had to be in a certain region to see it but now with the internet, everything is everywhere, so if I do something great, its on the internet within 15 seconds, if I do something horrible, its on the internet within 10 seconds or even faster and I can get great comments, I can get negative comments, everything our student athletes do is on display for the entire world to see, literally the entire world to see, so I think when there’s more eyes on you there’s also that feeling of I have to preform better or I need to perform better, if we insert NIL as well name image and likeness of the better I perform, the more money I can potentially make, so I think it’s started to shift as well.”

Sometimes the struggles an athlete may be facing are not apparent to the eye, “Think about what’s happening across our nation where in the last three months we’ve had three division one athletes commit suicide which I think shows the amount of pain hat some of our student-athletes may be going through but the normal viewer that’s at home, they just see the student athlete that rocking it and doing their best thing, from either being the best athlete that they can be and there’s probably kids looking up to these athletes an thinking that this athlete has everything figured out but internally that athlete really may be struggling and almost have to put on a mask or put on a face just to go do their sport,” Ferrera said.

Looking specifically at West Virginia, the athletes feel not the support of the state, but sometimes the pressure, “Many of our student athletes know that especially in the state of West Virginia that a lot of people look up to them but at the same time I think some people may forget that they are actual human beings first that just happen to do super athletic tings when they put on a WVU uniform so I always challenge our viewers to just think about before we may share the negative comment of think about that human being first who may have to read that comment or replay that comment as they try to go to sleep to get ready to do the next thing the next day,” said Ferrera.

For any student-athlete struggling, who may be afraid to ask for help, Ferrera compares it to getting a hitting coach for softball or baseball, you get a coach for what you need help with, maybe it’s a mental barrier, maybe it’s for building muscle, it’s all to make someone a better all around athlete, “I think everyone deserves to talk to someone, It’s actually a sign of strength to ask for help, which is actually probably the opposite of what we’ve probably heard in sports, of like figure it out, do it on your own , but if we think about how many athletes have had some type of coach, mentor in their life, someone who encouraged them to get into the sport, someone whose like keep them in sport, no one actually gets to the division one level or the college level by themselves so if you’re struggling with something mental health wise, why would we think that we would overcome that by ourselves?”

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