Div. 47 (SSEPP) Student Awards

Rena Marie Goodwin wins 2018 Thesis Award

The 2018 Thesis Award winner is Rena Marie Goodwin, for her thesis entitled “Self-Stigma, Attitudes, and Preferences When Seeking Mental Health and Sport Psychology Services: A Student-Athlete Point of View.” 

By Kimberly Bethany Bonura, PhD

Rena Marie GoodwinThe Cornerstone Committee reviewed several high-quality submissions for the 2018 Thesis Award. The 2018 Thesis Award winner is Rena Marie Goodwin, for her thesis entitled “Self-Stigma, Attitudes, and Preferences When Seeking Mental Health and Sport Psychology Services: A Student-Athlete Point of View.”  Goodwin completed her master’s thesis at the University of Kentucky under the supervision of Heather Erwin, PhD. She earned her BS in exercise science from the University of Mississippi in 2014, and her MS in kinesiology and health promotion from the University of Kentucky in 2017. She is currently a master’s student in the counseling psychology program at the University of Kentucky. At UK, she is a member of the REESEarch psychotherapy lab, led by Jeff Reese, PhD. Her career goals include completing her PhD to become a licensed counseling and sport psychologist.

Thesis Synopsis

Student-athletes often lack easy access to mental health and sport psychology services. There are also potential barriers that may further limit access for student-athletes who do not have mental health or sport psychology services offered in their athletic departments, including stigma and the time demands placed on student-athletes (e.g., practice, workouts, study hall, travel and competitions) beyond their academic obligations. This study aimed to better understand the attitudes and perceptions of NCAA Division I student-athletes (N = 174), who do not have mental health or sport psychology services in their athletic departments, regarding receiving such services. We also evaluated the relationship between student-athlete perceptions regarding self-stigma and their attitudes and preferences for seeking mental health and sport psychology services.

The findings of this study revealed that student-athletes held negative attitudes and moderate levels of self-stigma toward seeking help and were unlikelyto seek a) sport psychology services, b) mental health/counseling services, c) services from a mental health professional who is part of the department staff, or d) mental health/counseling services from their university counseling center.

However, a stepwise regression model indicated that perceived helpfulness of sport psychology services and positive attitudes towards seeking help positively predicted, and self-stigma negatively predicted, student-athletes’ likeliness to seek mental health services within the athletic department.

Due to the self-stigma and negative attitudes towards seeking help found in this study, athletic departments who do not have in-house mental health and sport psychology professionals need to ensure they are promoting the use of mental health services in a positive light, and educating student-athletes about services available on campus. Additionally, athletic departments need to inform student-athletes that both mental health and sport psychology services can help them succeed not only as a student-athlete, but also as young adults preparing for life after sport.