The Big Ten announced a new mental health initiative on Monday with the formation of the conference's Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet.
The group will include representatives from all 14 Big Ten institutions, as well as sport affiliate members Johns Hopkins (women’s and men’s lacrosse) and Notre Dame (men’s hockey).
The conference also announced that its student-athletes, coaches, full-time members of university athletic departments and conference staff members will receive free, unlimited access to Calm, a popular mental fitness app.
“When I was hired as the Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, a core pillar of my vision was to make sure that we educate, embrace, engage and empower our more than 9,500 student-athletes. This is a complex and stressful time in our society and the mental health and wellness of our Big Ten family is a critical component of our focus,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “The Cabinet will be instrumental for us both short and long term, as we pursue our goal of creating and maintaining the most comprehensive mental health and wellness platform in college athletics.
“Our hope is that the Calm mental fitness app will provide an immediate resource for all Big Ten student-athletes, coaches, athletic department staff members and conference staff during these unprecedented times and is only the first of many steps that we will take in the area of mental health and wellness. We are fortunate to have so many professionals on our campuses who have dedicated their lives to tackling mental health issues. We were driven to supplement their inspiring work with additional resources, important under normal circumstances, but even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Cabinet was established by Warren last December to promote mental health for student-athletes. It is comprised of 31 individuals representing a wide ranges, including mental health educators, medical doctors, faculty athletic representatives and senior woman administrators.
The announcement comes as the conference deals with the coronavirus pandemic. The conference announced on Monday that its moratorium on team activities has been extended to June 1.
“We understand, as leaders and in leadership positions, that life is complex and life is difficult,” Warren told Sports Illustrated. “It’s a challenging time in our world even without COVID-19. We want our student-athletes to get more in touch with mental health and mental fitness. We want them to recognize the importance of taking care of themselves, and to not see mental health issues as a stigma. I hope the takeaway for our student-athletes is that the Big Ten Conference cares about you.”
Calm has more than 100 hours of original audio content on topics ranging from anxiety to stress, gratitude, sleep and more. The app was named Apple’s 2017 App of the Year and a Google Play Editor’s Choice in 2018. Calm’s two most popular content offerings are its Daily Calm (new daily 10-minute meditation) and its Sleep Stories (bedtime stories for grown-ups).
Iowa's representatives to the cabinet are Dr. Aubrette Kinne, an embedded staff psychologist in the athletics department, and Dr. Lisa Woodroffe, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics.