The Los Angeles Rams recently conducted a virtual Mental Health Forum for California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) high school student-athletes that featured a panel discussion with Rams VP of Sports Medicine and Performance REGGIE SCOTT, the team's Sports Psychologist DR. CARRIE HASTINGS, as well as former NFL player, author and humanitarian Sam Acho.
The session was moderated by former NFL player and Rams' Director of Social Justice and Football Development JOHNATHAN FRANKLIN, who explored the rising levels of anxiety, stress and depression that might be experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how the hiatus of team sports and temporary isolation has impacted high school student-athletes and coaches across the state of California and beyond.
"In our world, we're often taught that it's OK. It's OK to be tired. It's OK to grind through it. We have this concept of 'we just have to keep pushing.' But that's not always the case. Sometimes, what you're feeling can be helped, but it can also be hidden and challenging to recognize. That's why it's so important to talk about this," said Reggie Scott. "Creating an environment where people feel comfortable talking about these things is so critical for success in treating anxiety or depression."
Specializing in sport psychology, neuropsychological and psychological testing, Dr. Carrie Hastings believes that the more people are encouraged to speak up about how they're feeling, the more they will be empowered to seek the help needed to be the best version of themselves.
"I am definitely seeing a change when it comes to discussing mental health," said Hastings. "I think there will be many people who see this and will seek support. This is about letting people know that it really is OK…You don't want to avoid and pretend like those feelings aren't there or assume that you'll be fine and that you can deal with it, because that's just not true. You may be able to get away with it for a game or two, but it'll catch up with you."
Hastings has seen firsthand how these issues are unique to every individual and how the scope of depression or anxiety can vary for people of all ages. She believes it's about finding ways to initiate self-reflection, communicate vulnerability and recalibrate how we think about these issues moving forward.
"It can take some time, but it's about getting the wheels in motion and learning your emotional vocabulary," said Hastings. "Sometimes it can be like learning to speak a new language."
The panelists also discussed how to healthily express emotions and provided recommended daily practices and routines to help manage stress.
"For me, it's about staying present and not thinking too much about the future or dwelling on the past," said Sam Acho. "I'm at my worst when I'm thinking about what tomorrow holds. Do what you can do today to make it as good as you possibly can. But know that sometimes, we're going to have bad days, and that's OK!"
As we continue to navigate the unpredictability of COVID-19, Scott advised that we find ways to restructure our schedules in a way that reinforces positive habits and routine.
"I think with this pandemic, it's really recreated our sense of normalcy and rhythm," said Scott. "Trying to create a new rhythm and routine is important right now. How can we find ways to be present where our feet are?"
For more information about the Rams' community outreach efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community.