College Athlete Mental Health Crisis Reaching Tipping Point with New Threat

There’s more than the game on the line…

From the outside looking in, people may be envious of the life of the college student athlete. Media generally makes it out to be a journey of camaraderie and celebration (and it often is) even amidst losses. Look no further than the hoopla surrounding the NCAA Division I basketball tournament as an example. A billion dollar industry had been built around March Madness. The same goes for the college football bowl season. But beneath the full-ride scholarships, team trips, fame, autograph signings, newly permitted endorsement deals, and prospects of a career in professional sports, there are underlying mental health issues that many struggle with. Moreover, a new threat has entered the fold that may push the college athlete mental health crisis to a tipping point.

Below we take a look at what’s driving the crisis, unveil what this new threat is, and address what needs to be done to protect this unique group of young Americans.

College Athlete Mental Health Issues Compounded by a New Threat and What Can be Done to Protect Them

Background on Mental Health Issues in College Student Athletes

Before we talk about the new threat to their mental (and physical) health, we must first address the common mental and behavioral issues that college student athletes have been living with since the beginning. These include the following:

  • Mental exhuastion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders

Between academic workloads and responsibilities to their respective athletic programs these young athletes face a lot of pressure. To learn more on these longstanding concerns, click here.

The New Threat: Sports Bettor Harassment & Violence

When the federal government removed the ban on sports betting in 2018 and allowed each of the 50 states to regulate the activity as they see fit, they opened up the gateway to a new threat for college student athletes. We’re not talking about their own exposure to risky sports betting and vulnerability to gambling disorder. We have covered those issues quite extensively already (click the respective links to learn more). Instead, we’re unveiling a new risk that has come to light over the last few years since college sports betting has become common place across America; harassment and the threat of violence from angry gamblers:

“In the five years since legalized sports betting began spreading across the country, student-athletes have reported regularly receiving abusive messages from gamblers on social media, including death wishes and threats of violence. An FBI agent told ESPN that it considers threats to athletes on social media to be a “growing issue,”


Anyone who thinks that calling the state of affairs a crisis is an exaggeration, should consider FBI involvement to be validation that it’s not.

While the threat of physical violence is real, collegiate athletes being harassed and threatened online are already feeling the pain inside. The enormous pressure that they already face is being intensified even further.

What Can be Done to Protect Collegiate Athletes

When athletes are harassed and threatened, governing bodies increase on-premises security while the athletes themselves are encouraged to be more aware of their physical surroundings. Furthermore, college sports officials, state gambling regulators, and even sportsbook operators are working on solutions for how to deal with the problem. Regulations are being considered that would prohibit gamblers who have harassed athletes from betting with a given state’s licensed sportsbooks, while some states are considering bills that will make betting-related threats against athletes a crime. These are tangible measures that are easy to understand. But what is being done to protect their mental health from this new enemy?

The NCAA already requires Division I colleges to have mental health resources on campus and encourages athletes who receive social media abuse to alert their coaches. This is one avenue for them to get help. Beyond this, important developments are underway as we speak.

For instance, in the state of Colorado, college athletes will soon be able to receive mental health support and report harassment when they are targets of online abuse. The Colorado Department of Revenue has approved grant funding for Kindbridge Research Institute (KRI) to develop the Colorado Athlete Wellbeing Program. As a partnership between KRI and Sportradar, the program will deliver app-based mental health services and training to more than 20 collegiate athletic programs in the state. This can serve as a model to be applied to the other U.S. states with legal sports betting. Learn more about this exciting new program here.

Contact Kindbridge today to learn more about problem gambling resources available for students and educational institutions.

Concerned Collegiate Athletes and Educational Institutions

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


Email [email protected]

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