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Health & Well-Being Initiative

Pac-12 athletics departments & universities reflect on efforts following Mental Health Awareness Month

Jun 2, 2021

Following Mental Health Awareness Month, which concluded May 31, Pac-12 campuses are taking stock of their efforts to increase their focus on the mental well-being of students throughout the past academic year.  With the pandemic altering everyone’s plans and ways of life, student-athletes, coaches and staffs have had to pivot and create new ways to take care of themselves this past year.  The Conference is fortunate to have a strong focus and dedication of resources to support mental health efforts, largely thanks to the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Initiative (SAHWBI), established in 2013. Under the Pac-12 SAHWBI, there is a dedicated Mental Health Task Force composed of a multidisciplinary group of practitioners from Pac-12 institutions, who serve as a resource to the Conference on educational initiatives, applied research and best practices focused on the mental health and well-being of collegiate athletes.

Mental Health Awareness Month serves to destigmatize mental health and raise awareness around the progress and growth collectively being made in accepting realities along with acknowledging barriers that exist for individuals. While the past year has been challenging with much to overcome, the focus on building healthy and resilient campus communities continues to be a priority for Pac-12 universities.

Each university, along with the Conference, activated mental health initiatives over the month of May and all year long, with a focus on effectively addressing medical, safety and well-being issues facing Pac-12 student-athletes. 


The University of Arizona shared resources on coping strategies, "finals week" tips, a wags & wellness day and portion of sharing stories using #NotAlone. They also celebrated their Arizona Clinical & Sport Psychology department in all that they do to support the well-being of their Wildcats.

Arizona State

ASU continued to take to social media to inform students of mental health resources available, among other efforts & initiatives: 


In Berkeley, the Golden Bears celebrated the work of the Cameron Institute, which created “Let’s Talk” informal consultations to increase access to mental health and destigmatizing services, with a particular focus on reaching Black student-athletes. Cal also expanded dedicated intake evaluation appointments available for student-athletes to enable more timely access to specialists in counseling and psychological services. The department later hosted a mental health and well-being workshop, co-created with BLAC (Black Lives After College), featuring current and former student-athletes as well as university health services' mental health staff. The Golden Bears also led several critical incident debriefings to support teams, coaches and staff in coping with losses impacting the athletics community. 


In Boulder, the Buffs created a mental health resource webpage and also hosted “Mental Lift Mondays” and “Mental Training Thursdays.” Colorado has dedicated attention to helping student-athletes with everything from transitioning out of college sports to embracing the unpredictable to coping with grief and loss.  


University of Oregon president, and chair of the Pac-12 CEO Group, Michael Schill shared a message with students via a short video emailed, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month. “Although we are still physically distant, know that you are not alone,” Schill said. “As I’ve said before, the University of Oregon is a family. We are a community made up of individuals that depend and care about each other.”

Oregon State

Oregon State has been a leader with their mental health awareness work thanks to the #DamWorthIt campaign, started by former Beaver gymnast Taylor Ricci and former men’s soccer player Nathan Braaten, to utilize the influential platform of sport and storytelling to end the stigma surrounding mental health. The #DamWorthIt campaign was later awarded a Pac-12 research grant as part of the Pac-12 SAHWBI. The Beavs also hosted a "Mental Health Action Day" and “Let’s Talk” conference in May, conducted self-care tips and held swag giveaways via social media support of the campaign. 


In Stanford, the Cardinal highlighted former Pac-12 football player and current Las Vegas Raider Solomon Thomas’ establishment of "The Defensive Line" (TDL) foundation. The TDL foundation is dedicated to end the epidemic of youth suicide, particularly for young people of color, by transforming the way individuals communicate and connect about mental health. 

Throughout the past year, Stanford continued to offer comprehensive sport psychology services. Examples included “Acclimating Back to the Farm: a team-based approach to transitioning back to campus during COVID,” as well as a monthly performance & resilience series. Stanford also provided coaches, staff and student-athletes election support in the form of Election Stress Management Tips and Election Support Talking Points Guide for coaches.


In Los Angeles, the UCLA Bruins focused on reducing stigmas around mental health, building community and continuing to improve the overall well-being of student-athletes.  UCLA hosted meetings for all teams returning to campus with a team of mental health providers in the context of the pandemic and social justice concerns.

In addition, UCLA highlighted a discussion with former men's basketball star Kevin Love around reducing stigmas around mental health with several student-athletes in leadership positions.  

The Bruins also co-hosted "We Shine Together," a free virtual concert in recognition of #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth that was hosted by Zane Lowe and featured special performances from John Legend, Black Pumas and Joy Oladokun! Learn more at


Also in Los Angeles, USC held a number of initiatives focused on mental health, including partnering on the first-ever Mental Health Action Day on May 20, encouraging and empowering people to take the next step for #MentalHealthAction.


In Salt Lake City, the Utes created a Stop the Stigma of Mental Health webpage that was a resource focused on wellness.  Utah athletics also launched a “CheckOnUCrew” campaign that encouraged student-athletes to support each other.  In addition, the Utes created an “Unmuted” campaign that initially stemmed from the Pac-12 Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) conference in the fall of 2019. Katie Faulk, the campaign’s founder, recognized that the University of Utah has amazing mental health resources for student-athletes but did not have a student-athlete-led campaign as other athletic departments did. This inspired the athletes at Utah to create the organization with a goal to spread awareness, normalize and validate student-athlete mental health, as a way to encourage help-seeking and reduce stigma associated with mental health. 

Washington State

Washington State also continued to support its student-athletes’ mental health in numerous ways. WSU provided face-to-face mental health screening visits for all of its student-athletes, provided mental mental health education via Zoom workshops and email blasts and partnered with organizations such as Premera Blue Cross and Cougar Pursuit to boost awareness of and resources for mental health issues through social media and video collaborations. 

Because of the emotional toll that the pandemic wrought on its students, Washington State also provided mental health check-in calls and emailed quarantine coping tips for all student-athletes who were quarantined or isolated with COVID-19 (or COVID exposure) in the fall of 2020.


UW also continued to circulate information and messages via social media, related to mental health resources for students.

Though Mental Health Awareness Month ended in May, thanks to the tremendous work and attention across Pac-12 campuses, combined with the shared collective resources from the Pac-12 SAHWBI, the subject of mental health will continue to be a key focus all year long throughout the Pac-12.