Big Ten Implements Mental Health Initiatives | Athletic Business

Big Ten Implements Mental Health Initiatives

All Big Ten Conference student-athletes and conference-affiliated staff members are receiving free access to the mental health app Calm.

The Big Ten announced the initiative in a Monday press release that said that unlimited access to Calm is being announced as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. Calm, which is intended to help users lower stress and anxiety, typically costs $69.99 annually after a seven-day free trial. First-year Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said the mental health objectives are even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled all NCAA spring seasons as well as many winter championships.

“Our hope is that the Calm mental fitness app will provide an immediate resource for all Big Ten student-athletes, coaches, athletic department staff members and conference staff during these unprecedented times and is only the first of many steps that we will take in the area of mental health and wellness,” Warren said in the release. “We are fortunate to have so many professionals on our campuses who have dedicated their lives to tackling mental health issues. We were driven to supplement their inspiring work with additional resources, important under normal circumstances, but even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Warren, who took over when Jim Delany stepped down this school year, said one of his goals as commissioner is to make sure that all 9,500-plus Big Ten student-athletes are educated, embraced, engaged and empowered. The conference’s effort to improve mental health pre-dates the coronavirus.

Warren established the Big Ten Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet in December 2019. The cabinet, which was officially announced Monday, has 31 individuals representing all 14 Big Ten institutions, as well as Johns Hopkins — which competes in the conference in lacrosse — and Notre Dame — which is part of the Big Ten men’s hockey conference.

The cabinet includes doctors, mental health educators among the experts in a variety of related fields.

“We need to start with the new commissioner having the vision and the wherewithal to request that we try to do something that’s never been done — looking at taking care of the student-athlete and seeing them as a whole person. That is a major shift. I have never heard anything like it,” said Michigan executive associate athletic director and cabinet member Greg Harden. “I have never heard a commissioner talk about it more than Kevin Warren has. This changes the game — having that type of leadership at that type of level.”

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