Dr. Jessica Kirby discusses cultivating mental wellbeing in student athletes at SGA meeting 

At the March 3 senate meeting, SGA listened to Health Promotion Graduate Program Coordinator Jessica Kirby give a presentation about student athletes’ mental health.  

Kirby presented a program called Mountain Lion Strong that aims to develop and maintain a sense of mental wellbeing in UCCS’ student athletes. The program is funded annually by the NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant, which is given to five campuses nationally.  

Kirby said she is working with a team of faculty members and students to create an effective approach that is proactive in assisting student athletes with their physical and mental wellness. 

“We can’t continue to be reactive to crisis care because there’s just not enough counselors in the world, so we have to take a proactive approach that teaches the skills and support structures to help build resilience that can be a buffer for when those challenging times happen,” Kirby said. 

The Mountain Lion Strong Program maps out a curriculum that grows with the student as they progress in their education. It teaches athletes how to set goals and manage time, eat healthy, maintain healthy relationships, develop a healthy identity and maintain mental and physical wellbeing. 

Kirby believes the program is critical for student athletes due to the pressures placed on them. Student athletes have to perform well in their sport and academically because of scholarships, which could lead to mental health issues.  

“This really limits their access to time and sleep, which also contributes to mental wellness … In general, as well as in student athletes, mental health concerns have increased fairly steadily over the past few decades,” Kirby said.  

This poses issues when it comes to winning games as well. According to Kirby, “You can’t perform and optimize your potential … as an athlete or as anyone in any space [when] performing on a shaky foundation.” 

In the future, Kirby hopes that the Mountain Lion Strong Program will set a precedent for supporting athletes’ health in more ways than just physically. Students can learn more about the program on the UCCS athletics website Go Mountain Lions