Boozman, Booker Lead Measure to Enhance Suicide Prevention Efforts for College Athletes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are championing enhancements to mental health services for college athletes by introducing legislation that would expand access to a federal grant aimed at campus suicide prevention.

The Targeting Emotional Mental Stability (TEAMS) Act would allow school-based initiatives supporting the mental health needs of college athletes to be eligible for the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention Grant Program. This grant targets mental health services at college students, including those at risk for suicide, depression, serious mental illness/serious emotional disturbances and/or substance use disorders that can lead to school failure.

“Collegiate athletics are incredibly demanding on student-athletes and create a unique pressure unfamiliar to most of their classmates. The TEAMS Act will improve access to resources and support their mental health needs as they navigate school, sports and other aspects of life. I’m proud to lead this initiative so we can help these competitors succeed on and off the field,” Boozman said.

“As a former college athlete, I know the immense stress and demands our college athletes face to excel both in sports and academics,” said Booker. “It is crucial that our college athletes have the mental health resources and care they need to succeed in all aspects of their lives on and off the field. This legislation will provide more access to mental health resources to provide the necessary support our college athletes need for their health and well-being.”

There is a growing need for innovative mental health programming and services for college athletes. A National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) survey found that student-athletes continue to report elevated levels of mental health concerns, with increased rates of mental exhaustion, anxiety and feelings of being depressed. Its research also discovered that less than half of student-athletes felt comfortable seeking mental health support from professionals on campus.

Boozman and Booker are both former college football players at the University of Arkansas and Stanford University, respectively.

The TEAMS Act would allow for GLS Grant Program funding to be used in the creation of school-based mental health programs such as:

  • Mental health care services
  • Peer-to-peer counseling
  • 24/7 crisis lines
  • Training for students and staff on how to respond to students exhibiting signs of mental distress
  • Campus-wide measures to address the stigma associated with seeking help

Schools awarded funds under the grant program would be required to include a letter of support from athletic departments to ensure they are involved in the application process and the proposed activities benefit the athletes.

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The TEAMS Act is endorsed by the following organizations: Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Morgan’s Message, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Arkansas Hospital Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Mental Health America (MHA), American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Psychological Association (APA), RADical Hope, Athletes For Hope, Katie’s Save, Sarah Schulze Foundation, Hilinski’s Hope and Madison Holleran Foundation.

“As a former college athlete, I saw firsthand the immense pressure college athletes feel to perform – across both men’s and women’s athletics. Despite struggling with anxiety and depression, it took me years to seek help,” said Colton Underwood, former NFL player and founder of the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation. “In many cases, national attention adds to the stress of balancing life as a full-time student and athlete, and colleges and universities must have a game plan for supporting the mental health needs of this population. The Legacy Foundation is grateful for Senators Boozman and Booker’s partnership in supporting the TEAMS Act. We are excited to continue working with our congressional champions to get this critical legislation across the finish line.”

“We applaud Senators Boozman and Booker for taking this much-needed bipartisan step forward for a safer mental health environment for athletes on college campuses,” said Dona F. Rodgers, co-founder and chairperson of Morgan’s Message, a mental health non-profit organization established in the aftermath of her daughter’s tragic death by suicide in July 2019. “With the support of school administrators, the NCAA and leading mental health organizations around the country, this legislation will help to ensure mental health programs and services are readily available to students when they are most needed.”

“Our youth are in a mental health crisis, and we see this impact our student-athletes far too often. We have to do more. The TEAMS Act will help ensure that these students receive the mental health support they need, when they need it,” said Hannah Wesolowski, Chief Advocacy Officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “NAMI is proud to support the TEAMS Act and grateful to Senators Boozman and Booker for leading efforts to improve student-athlete mental health.”

“Young people today face overwhelming threats to their mental health, and college athletes face additional stresses,” said Mental Health America Chief Public Policy Officer Mary Giliberti. “The increased pressures from peers, college communities, family, and social media can affect mental health despite the benefits of being a student-athlete. Mental Health America commends the TEAMS Act, which will take a comprehensive approach to reducing stigma and providing help through services including peer-to-peer counseling.”

“Student and college athletes face unique challenges to their mental health as they balance the demands of academic studies and the high pressures of their sports,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “According to a recent NCAA survey, student-athletes have been reporting high levels of mental exhaustion, anxiety, and feelings of depression since 2020. The TEAMS Act would ensure that grant funding is available for colleges and universities to create and implement innovative school-based programs to address the specific mental health needs of these athletes. AFSP is grateful to Senator Boozman and Senator Booker for leading this important legislation.”

“The American Psychological Association commends Senators Boozman and Booker for their work on introducing the Targeting Emotional and Mental Stability (TEAMS) Act, which recognizes the unique pressures faced by college student-athletes that can often lead to mental health conditions, such as stress, anxiety, depression, or suicidality,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association. “By ensuring that the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant—the only federal program dedicated to addressing college student mental health—specifically applies to student-athletes, this bipartisan legislation will help colleges and universities meet the mental health needs of athletes on their campuses.”

“College athletes face unique mental health challenges as they balance the demands of a postsecondary course load and competitive sports schedule,” said American Psychiatric Association CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We applaud Senators Boozman and Booker for introducing the TEAMS Act, which would provide much needed targeted mental health programs and resources, including suicide prevention and behavioral health treatment, to college athletes.”

“There are over half a million student-athletes on college campuses across the country. We commend the leadership of Senators Boozman and Booker for recognizing our responsibility to support the mental as well as physical health of these young adults” said Liz Feld, CEO of RADical Hope. “Student-athletes express feelings of isolation and ‘silent suffering,’ fueled by an apprehension to show weakness or sadness. Through our program work, we know the power of peer-to-peer support in strengthening connections and building resilience. This legislation promotes resources and programs that can improve and save lives now.”

“While Arkansas hospitals are best known for the acute care they provide, they also embrace and promote endeavors that keep Arkansans healthy and thriving. Improving access to mental health resources for student-athletes is critical to supporting the unique challenges these competitors experience. The TEAMS Act will lead to higher achievements on and off the field. We appreciate Senator Boozman’s leadership in proposing and advancing solutions that promote positive mental health outcomes for Arkansans,” said Arkansas Hospital Association President/CEO Bo Ryall.