PCA Resource zone

The Coaches’ Guide to Supporting High School Athlete Mental Health

This Is Your Guide to Supporting Your Players

Teens are facing an escalating crisis in mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in three high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019. Nearly 20% of all high school students had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, a statistic that rises significantly for LGBTQ students and students of color. Sports teams offer unique opportunities to create spaces where teens feel safe, seen, heard, and valued. A trusted, caring adult can be a game changer for young people, and coaches are ideally positioned to provide that support. You can be the first to notice when an athlete is struggling emotionally, and the first person an athlete trusts enough to reach out to.

The Jed Foundation (JED) and Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) created this quick, easy-to-use guide to increase your knowledge and comfort in navigating these situations and conversations. We want to help you feel prepared, and we want you to know:

  • You do not have to be a mental health professional to support an athlete with their mental health.
  • You are never alone when you support athletes.
  • You don’t have to provide care. You can be the bridge that connects them to it.

This guide will walk you through straightforward—but significant—steps you can take to:

  • Support mental health on your team.
  • Recognize and reach out to a struggling athlete.
  • Connect athletes to professional help, if and when it is needed.