Thomas Zigo provides counseling services for athletes


Student-athlete leaders’ concerns about mental health resulted in new services. Photo by Mai Vu Phuong.

Quan Tran

Student-athlete leaders’ concerns about mental health resulted in new services. Photo by Mai Vu Phuong.

Last year, Grinnellians Carson Dunn, Maggie Remus, Nathan Zaroban and Lauren Hurley, all ’18, attended the National College Athlete Association’s APPLE Training Institute on student-athlete well-being. The meeting left them thinking about the presence, or lack, of mental health conversations on campus, especially among student-athletes. Determined to make a difference, they decided mental health resources would be their project.

Since then, Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS) and the wellness program have worked together with the Athletics Department to discuss ways to broaden the accessibility of mental health services to student-athletes. From the get-go, during New Student Orientation (NSO), student-athlete mentors received additional education about common mental health issues. There were also outreach activities such as the screening of the movie “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw.”

Jen Jacobsen, the College’s wellness director, believes that this has made a positive impact.

“[I]n reaching student-athletes, we are reaching over 25 [percent] of our college student population and we hope there is a social contagion effect where it spreads to their other friends and classmates,” Jacobsen wrote in an email to The S&B.

This semester, SHACS are sending Thomas Zigo to the athletic training room every Tuesday.

Zigo pointed out that many people cite the main reason for student-athletes’ reservations in reaching out for mental health services is fear of admitting “weakness.” This has been backed up by significant research. He believes that student-athletes need to rethink this assumption.

“This program with athletics will continue; and other efforts to meet needs of students, including increasing group counseling opportunities for all students, are being offered and planned,” Zigo wrote.