Big Ten Forms Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet

By Dan Hope on May 4, 2020 at 12:32 pm
Kevin Warren

Representatives from each Big Ten school are coming together to provide mental health resources for their student-athletes.

The conference announced Monday that it has formed the Big Ten Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet, consisting of two representatives from each of the conference's 14 member schools – as well as sport affiliate members Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame – who will work together to promote optimal mental health for student-athletes, establish interdisciplinary mental health programs for student-athletes throughout the conference and provide counsel, advice and expertise on mental health issues.

The Big Ten also announced Monday that it will provide free and unlimited access to Calm, an app that provides assistance for sleep and meditation, to all Big Ten student-athletes, coaches and staff members.

“When I was hired as the Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, a core pillar of my vision was to make sure that we educate, embrace, engage and empower our more than 9,500 student-athletes. This is a complex and stressful time in our society and the mental health and wellness of our Big Ten family is a critical component of our focus,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “The Cabinet will be instrumental for us both short and long term, as we pursue our goal of creating and maintaining the most comprehensive mental health and wellness platform in college athletics.”

The cabinet, which was initially formed in December but announced on Monday in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, includes mental health experts from throughout the Big Ten who will work together to develop conference-wide initiatives. Ohio State is represented on the cabinet by two of its sports psychologists, Jamey Houle and Chelsi Day, who worked regularly with Ohio State's sports teams to address their mental health concerns.

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day, who launched a mental wellness fund through Nationwide Children's Hospital with his wife last summer, is among those who praised the conference's new initiatives on Monday.

“I think the work the Big Ten Conference is doing with regard to mental health initiatives is incredibly important,” Day said in a statement. “Forming a Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet is a reflection of the conference’s leadership, engagement and support for mental health initiatives. These efforts will help bring much-needed attention and awareness to the subject of mental health.”

Michigan executive associate athletic director Greg Harden, a member of the cabinet, praised Warren for taking the initiative to lead the Big Ten into addressing mental health in a way that no college sports conference ever has before.

“We need to start with the new Commissioner having the vision and the wherewithal to request that we try to do something that’s never been done – looking at taking care of the student-athlete and seeing them as a whole person,” Harden said. “I have never heard a commissioner talk about it more than Kevin Warren has. This changes the game – having that type of leadership at that type of level. This was all pre-COVID-19. We started collaborating and examining best practices, examining how to work together, how to make sure there was integrity in the exchanges, how to build trust and go beyond the competitive rituals of being in sports. To be able to hear the best from our colleagues in our conference — it was a common commitment to an agenda that went beyond who is going to win the next game. We are in the business of developing people, intervening, solving issues, and pushing forth success.”

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