Skip to main content

I’m taking a break from discussing the NIL chatter.   NIL fatigue if you will.   Today, I want to address the student athlete and discuss something far more important than brand deals.  It’s mental well-being.  Change is hard.  Adolescence is hard.  Life is hard.   Mix in sociological issues, the pandemic, and most of all the harsh reality of information overload in the palms of student’s hands, this is a recipe for mental chaos.   Did you know that 216,000 photos are published to Instagram every minute?  Wow, I had a hard time reading what people said about me when I asked them to sign my high school yearbook.

Compared with past generations, more students on campus today are thrusted into this world where social media morphs into an anti-social world.  It’s not just social media but phone addiction is penetrating the minds of our youth and reframing their worldview on a minute-by-minute basis.  I couldn’t imagine walking across campus and hearing a beep and checking my phone to see news reports about a horrific earthquake in Turkey.  I mean damn, I just want to go to class and ask Megan to get a shot and beer at Dooley’s after class and then, maybe, someone brings up the earthquake and we discuss this tragedy over a pitcher.

Not just student athletes but all college students juggle an array of challenges, from academics, misguided relationships, campus life, social injustice, mass violence, and various forms of drama that permeate this broken world.  My heart aches for this generation because I know it’s not their fault that technology has hi-jacked their innocence.

Manipulation tactics used in technology by big tech and media companies persuade people to see things they would not normally see. I plead to the college students to simply not buy the hype.   Don’t ceaselessly toil in the morass of fake news and if it bleeds it leads propaganda.

I recognize that campuses everywhere promote taking an ideological stance against the system and  becoming disenfranchised with societal norms.  As a middle aged white man I understand and sympathize with necessary change.   I went to the University of Michigan and witnessed protests and demonstrations across campus every day.   I loved it.  Some I agreed with and some I didn’t.   I loved the passion displayed and the harmony and dissension that went along with those dissentients.

Somewhere in the lexicon of society we have learned how to monetize this.  From mass media to social media the pain and suffering of the world has become big business. It is no wonder college students are overwhelmed and this generation is killing themselves every day.  Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU Stern School of Business, brings up the concerns of mental health in relation to social media. There has been an increase in depression and suicide rates among teens and young adults since the early 2000’s.  Haidt states that this pattern points to the year social media was made available on mobile phones.

Let’s collectively stop the madness. Depression is real.   Anxiety is Real.  Pain is Real!

Pain is the elixir of life.  I contend that without pain no one would feel anything.  At its core pain is the most misunderstood sensation.   It fuels the human capacity of coping.   Everyone feels pain.   Pain provides hope.  Forgive me if that sounds like a cliché but I mean it.

For you to heed my advice I feel it’s imperative I share some insight into my background.  In the Baskin Robbins of life I never wanted to be vanilla Ice Cream.   I grew up in a dysfunctional house and spent most of my life trying to navigate through the confusion.  I played football on national TV, won a car on The Price is Right, walked the red carpet at a few movie premieres of films I wrote, rubbed shoulders with some of Hollywood’s elite and built a couple modestly successful businesses.

These are not humble brags. (Kind of) But during college and not soon after I struggled with mental health.   I was fortunate enough not to have the world’s foibles in the palm of my hand.   I’m sure that would have pushed me over the edge.   I was embarrassed and ashamed that I could not enjoy life’s beautiful blessings.I was overwhelmed, anxious and hopeless –  a cocktail of destruction.  I had a good friend who saw this in me and suggested I train for a marathon.  WTF!   I didn’t have the resources out there today for help.   I didn’t know about therapists or Psychologists or mental health experts.My friend just knew I had to get out of my head.

Today, you don’t need that crazy friend begging you to train for a marathon with him.   There are amazing resources available.   The stigma has been removed.  This culture may have its problems but the world is bullish on a culture of wellness.  I wish I had a quick fix and 7 steps to mental wellness, but I don’t.  But I want all college students to know that HOPE reigns supreme.

This was one of the songs I played on my Walkman during the marathon. (I told you I was older) Please find the song and listen.

 R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts

When your day is long

And the night, the night is yours alone

When you’re sure you’ve had enough

Of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go

‘Cause everybody cries

Everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong

Now it’s time to sing along

When your day is night alone (hold on, hold on)

If you feel like letting go (hold on)

If you think you’ve had too much

Of this life, well hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts

Take comfort in your friends

Everybody hurts

Don’t throw your hand, oh no

Don’t throw your hand

If you feel like you’re alone

No, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life

The days and nights are long

When you think you’ve had too much

Of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes

Everybody cries

Everybody hurts, sometimes

And everybody hurts sometimes

So hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on, hold on

Everybody hurts