Fresno State site prioritizes mental health help for student-athletes

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A website provided by Fresno State is trying to get student-athletes to care for their minds the same way they care for their bodies.

"Your brain is a muscle that can get injured, just like any other muscle in your body, your brain is an organ that can develop an illness, just like any other organ in your body," said Sydney Fox, a distance runner for the Bulldog track and cross country teams.

She says she's dealt with mental health issues in the past, and hamstring and Achilles injuries that put her athletic career on hold brought some of those mental struggles back to the forefront.

"When you're on scholarship, you're worried: am I wasting the school's money? This school is paying for me to fulfill a certain spot on the team, and I'm letting them down," she said. Part of what helped her get past the struggles was a website: Bulldog Brave, Bulldog Strong.

The site connects people with resources ranging from phone apps specifically for mental health to tips on how to talk to a friend if you're worried about them, or what to expect when you try therapy, all with the hopes of getting student-athletes the help they need.

"If you were to get injured, you wouldn't be like my knee is injured but I'm just being weak, I need to just push through it and solve the problem on my own. You would go to a physical therapist, you would go to a doctor to get it diagnosed," Fox said. "The way we approach mental health should be very similar. If you're struggling, it's not about a failure on your part. It's just another injury that you have to address."

Catch up on all the week's Fresno State sports news on "Bulldog Breakdown" every Sunday at 5 pm on ABC30.

The site is being utilized by more than a quarter of all Fresno State athletes according to Associate Athletic Director of Sports Medicine Kelli Eberlein.

"Everyone needs help, right? And all the stats that come out... one in five will deal with something, whether that's anxiety or depression," Eberlein said.

Fox knows all about what it's like to deal with things like that, and as she works to get back on her feet physically, she's hoping this website will help pick up others mentally like it did for her.

"That's what this website is meant to do, it's giving you that one extra little piece of encouragement that could be the difference between giving up and keeping going," Fox said. "Every single sport at the school has at least one person, one athlete utilizing this resource, and I just hope we can use this website to reach as many people as possible."

Although the resource is geared towards student-athletes, Fox and Eberlein both say there are resources for anyone in the community to use. To check out the website, click here.
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