Student Athlete Mental Health

Competing Against an Invisible Opponent

The world of post-secondary athletics is frequently associated with strength, perseverance, accomplishment and victory. We look to athletes for inspiration when we need exemplars of focus, dedication, and passion. Stories are written about teams that overcome seemingly unbeatable odds and athletes that complete superhuman tasks. For those of us who have competed in athletic pursuits, we can identify with these stories and the feelings they evoke.

What is often lost in these narratives is the humanity of our athletes and the daily struggles they face as they seek to balance athletic careers, academic pursuits and transitioning through a vital stage of life. Each athlete is a person with a unique identity consisting of various strengths and areas in need of development. In this webinar we seek to highlight some of these unique voices along with the those who dedicate their professional lives to support these students throughout their athletic careers.

This webinar also acts as an unofficial kick-off to the development of the CICMH Student Athlete Mental Health Playbook. This resource will be a key area of focus for 2021 as we look to support the ongoing development of athletic and academic programming that prioritizes the mental health and wellness of our student athletes. Some themes that are already emerging include:

  • The narrative of a singular identity that can form in student athletes and how this has been disrupted during the pandemic.
  • How to ‘soften the edges’ of the student athlete experience: physically, mentally, spiritually.
  • Departmental strategies designed to integrate a culture of mental health support for student athletes.
  • Learning how to integrate practices for student athlete mental health rather than talking to athletes about mental health.
  • Mental health literacy for athletes and demystifying the help seeking process.





Alex Salomie is a Program and Communications Manager for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario Division. He is responsible for the day-to-day operation of CMHA Ontario’s sport mental health program Talk Today and has been integral in the programs expansion to post-secondary institutions.

James Gardiner is a Certified Athletic Therapist, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, holds a Masters Degree in Kinesiology and Health Science and is a Hatha Yoga practitioner. He has held positions as a Head Athletic Trainer in the Blue Jays system, a Rehab Coordinator role at York University and various therapy, conditioning, and sports injury rehab roles, including working within the York University Athletic Therapy program and as a performance consultant with the University of the Bahamas and created wellness/lifestyle programming for professionals and students during the time in Nassau, Bahamas. His new venture, FIRSTAR Therapy sheds light on Performance Wellness, encompassing personal growth and coaching athletes in accessing more of themselves for what they do (sport, daily life, job satisfaction, etc).

Matthew Arnone is a professional soccer athlete in the Canadian Premier League who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Health Science, as well as an Applied Specialization in Mindfulness Meditation. His career has taken him to both international and domestic locations such as the USA, Italy, and most recently Canada. Matthew’s passion for optimal performance in his professional career drove him to continue learning, which ultimately led to his discovery of mindfulness, as a solution to performance anxiety, anxiety away from sport, low self-efficacy, and depression. Matthew is the founder of mindframe- a mental fitness program with a focus on growth and a healthier approach to sport and life. Matthew discovered he could achieve peak performance through a ‘human first’ approach brings the athlete experience to the forefront, giving athletes the tools they need to create a safe place in the mind for development.

Alexandra Rakin is a graduate student at the University of Western where she is currently doing her Masters in Integrative Biosciences. She works closely with Dr. Michelle F. Mottola, at the Exercise and Pregnancy Research Lab, and Dr. Eva Pila, at the Body Image and Health Research Lab. Her areas of interests are in exercise prescription/interventions for prenatal and postpartum mothers, sexual dysfunctions in postpartum mothers, body, self and athletes mental health, and self-compassion. She comes from a highly competitive sports background where she competed in swimming for 10 years, rowed for 3 years and has been powerlifting for 4 years. Aside from competing in sports, she was a Swimming coach and Strength and Conditioning coach for Canadian National and elite athletes. Her background in academic and research based activities and sports has enabled her to further investigate the conflicts and risks affiliated in highly competitive sport environments and how that may predispose athletes to mental health complications. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and eating disorder prevention in athletes and is extremely passionate about educating and implementing interventions to help assist athletes on their journey to recovery.

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