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ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 Announce Mental Health Initiative

ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 Announce Mental Health Initiative

GREENSBORO, NC & ROSEMONT, IL & SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 today announced a joint initiative entitled “Teammates for Mental Health,” which is designed to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and wellness among their more than 27,000 student athletes.

This initiative builds upon the work all three conferences continue to dedicate toward mental health, including the creation of dedicated task forces and cabinets comprised of mental health professionals on campuses at the 41 world-class institutions that comprise the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12.

The ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 are again coming together to officially tip off Teammates for Mental Health starting with the 2021 Big Ten/ACC Women’s and Men’s Basketball Challenge, a series of 28 contests November 29-December 2, along with Alliance basketball matchups during the regular season across all three conferences. These Alliance matchups – and others throughout the 2021-22 ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 college athletics seasons – will highlight the importance of mental health and wellness.

The Alliance’s Teammates for Mental Health initiative includes a public service announcement (PSA) featuring women’s and men’s basketball head coaches and the commissioners from all three conferences. The 30-second PSA will air on ESPN, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, and Pac-12 Network, as well as on conference-owned digital and social media channels. Click here to view the PSA.

Additionally, starting with the 2021 Big Ten/ACC Women’s and Men’s Basketball Challenge, Alliance games will feature Teammates for Mental Health public address announcements, digital signage, coaches’ lapel pins, and promotions that help serve fans’ mental health and wellness needs.

“As individual conferences and collectively as the Alliance, we have a profound responsibility to our student-athletes, especially in the area of their health and safety,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D. “More than 27,000 student-athletes compete in the three Alliance conferences, and we are proud to join together in the creation of the ‘Teammates for Mental Health’ to bring awareness to, and break down, any stigma related to mental health.”

“One in five adults in our nation live with mental illness each year,” said Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren. “Now more than ever, our student-athletes are faced with their own unique circumstances that could potentially impact their mental health as they strive to balance academic commitments, practices and games, serving their communities, and building their brands. This initiative is designed to remind all of us, especially our student-athletes, to prioritize our mental health and seek professional help when needed.”

“Supporting student-athletes is the central mission of the Alliance, and ‘Teammates for Mental Health’ is an important step in our collective effort to be responsive to our student-athletes most important health and well-being needs,” said Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff. “The 41 world-class universities across the Alliance have incredible knowledge, research capabilities and resources that together can help tackle critical issues such as mental health.”

The ACC formed a mental health working group in 2018 to provide recommendations for mental health support and education at each of its 15 member institutions. The following year, the league hosted its first ACC Mental Health and Wellness Summit, which focused on best practices for integrative care and strategies to break the stigma surrounding mental health. Guest speakers included Kym and Mark Hilinski of Hilinski’s Hope and former WNBA No. 1 draft pick Chamique Holdsclaw. In 2020, the conference distributed a series of videos and educational materials throughout Mental Health Awareness Month (May) and held two virtual QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) workshops on suicide prevention. In 2021, the conference held a virtual summit that addressed the affects and takeaways from navigating a pandemic and a year of social unrest. In addition to the continued development of educational materials and virtual events, mental health professionals within the ACC host a monthly conference call in which they share best practices around education and methods of treatment. The ACC also provides the Calm meditation app to all student-athletes, coaches, and staff members for additional support.

The Big Ten Conference formed the Big Ten Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet in 2019 to promote optimal mental health for student-athletes. The cabinet is comprised of 31 individuals representing a wide range of disciplines, including mental health educators, medical doctors, faculty athletic representatives and senior woman administrators. These industry leaders take a comprehensive, systemic, and interdisciplinary approach to establishing mental health programs, while also providing counsel, advice, and expertise to the conference office. The conference also provides the Calm meditation app to all student-athletes, coaches, and staff members for additional support.

Created in 2013, the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Initiative is a collective effort between the Pac-12 and its member universities to support student-athlete health and well-being, including finding ways to reduce injuries, share current best practices and latest studies, and conduct research to uncover new ways to keep student-athletes as safe as possible. Mental health support has been an essential element of this effort through the Pac-12’s Mental Health Task Force & Coordinating Unit, mental health conference and educational sessions, and dedicated mental health resources across campuses. In 2020 the Pac-12 held its first ever Student-Athlete Mental Health Summit on the campus of UCLA, and each year over one million dollars of Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being funding is allocated to support mental health services across Pac-12 campuses.