“Gonna Mess with Your Head”: The Role of Mental Health in the Lived Experiences of Black Male Football College Athletes

Todd A. Wilkerson – Langston University
Alison Fridley – University of Southern Mississippi
Skye Arthur-Banning – Clemson University
Thomas J. Aicher – University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Sarah Stokowski – Clemson University

Black college athletes are at an elevated risk of mental health struggles, and yet, have not received the same attention in the literature as their White counterparts. Cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion was used as the theoretical foundation to examine the role of mental health in Black college athletes. Through a phenomenological approach, this qualitative study sought to understand the views of Black college athletes regarding the extent to which mental health impacts their lives. Specifically, this study addressed the question: How do Black male NCAA Division I football college athletes describe the role of mental health within their lives? Eight Black football college athletes at an NCAA Division I power five university agreed to participate in this study. The data emerged into two major themes: stress (subthemes: stress, injury, and family) and “We don’t need it!” (subthemes: support and performance). The results suggest the need for athletic department to offer stress management programs to support this specific college athlete population.