Tackling Mental Health In Sports: Chicago Hosts Student-Athlete Expo

Keith Johnson
June 18, 2019 - 6:25 pm

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- This weekend, Chicago will be the site of a student athlete expo that organizers say will tackle topics affecting high school and college prospects, including mental health in sports.

"Seeking health is always a sign of strength,” said Natalie Graves, owner of Natalie Graves Athlete Counseling, who knows a thing or two about the pressure top athletes face.

Graves is a licensed clinical social worker and certified alcohol and drug counselor specializing in working with athletes on mental health and performance.

She said it’s easy to forget that student athletes are young people.

"Think about a young athlete, the pressure that they're experiencing, from their coaches, comparing themselves to their teammates success, putting pressure on themselves,” Graves said. "That is a lot, and when things do not go as planned, then it's like, now what?

"When you've been the main person on your team and now you've been recruited to Division 1, the NFL or the NBA or the WNBA, that adjustment period is really huge."

Young athletes may also feel stress from their families and the great expectations they may have, she said.

"There are some unique things that go on as far as the expectations. Sometimes we have issues where parents are living their dreams through their child. Sometimes the child is trying to follow in their parents footsteps. Sometimes there is concern about boundary issues," Graves said.

Last year, the NBA invited Graves to make a presentation on the topic of “mental wellness” to the players entering the league.

The Student Athlete Expo at the Pullman Community Center this Saturday and Sunday will include three specialized panels and four workshops.

The panels will include Recruiting One on One. Graves said Division 1 athletes and Division 1 coaches will talk about what it takes to recruited, whether that's from high school to college, college to pro, maybe overseas.

Another panel will discuss Managing and Coping with Injuries and a third panel will focus on Mental Wellness.

"We know sports is a physical game, but we also want to introduce the mental part of sports," Graves said. "A lot of specialized mental health professionals who work with athletes will be on that panel."

The registration fee is $50 for the two-day event.

For more information, click here.