Leila is a student athlete who is managing a schedule of being a full time athlete while also majoring in math. Needless to say, Leila had a rigorous and demanding schedule which resulted in frequent anxiety and panic attacks. She was also feeling incredibly home sick and missed her family because it was her first semester of college.
She was also getting very little sleep because she had early practices at 6am and was therefore waking up at 5am on weekdays. At night, she would do her best to finish her homework and study for upcoming midterms, but a lot of her teammates were socializing and loud at night making it difficult for her to finish her work and get too bad. All of this made her anxiety attacks worse. She knew it had gotten bad enough, and she needed to seek help.
The coaches and athletic program pushed a popular mental health app on all of the athletes insinuating that the app was all that was needed. Leila however, felt as though the app was marketed to her team as an ‘immediate fix’ or a ‘one-stop fix’. The app was a meditation app that the team was encouraged to use in order to promote wellness. Leila attempted to use the app, but when she didn’t experience the ‘immediate fix’ she was told she would have, she began to invalidate her anxiety. She became extremely discouraged and found herself pushing the mental health issues to the sideline.
She appreciated the help that her coaches were attempting to give the team but it did not work for Leila. She instead started suffering from even more anxiety attacks and grew even more frustrated with herself. She felt as though something was wrong with her because the treatment that was being offered was not working. She proceeded to push aside her feelings of anxiety and put on a brave face for the rest of the semester. Eventually got to her breaking point and had to take a break from her sport because her anxiety attacks were getting insufferable.
Leila may have been able to prevent the extent of her anxiety attacks if she had access to a wide variety of education to better understand what she was going through. However, it is not her coach’s fault for insinuating that the wellness app is all she would need to be treated. Learning how to manage her emotions using an app was a great first step.
It is not Leila’s fault. Instead, it is a societal issue in which mental health is still misunderstood. As a society, we need to define a standard in which app stores show users what apps are clinically validated and evidence-based. We also need to educate users to look for those standards and approvals.