College athletes push mental health to the forefront

Athletes such as Cailin Bracken, a Vanderbilt women's lacrosse player, are speaking out about mental health awareness for collegians such as herself and others, noting the difficulty in handling pressures on and off the playing field.



June 6, 2022 - 1:08 PM

Young girls hug mourning the loss of Stanford soccer star Katie Meyer, in photo, during her memorial at Newbury High School in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on March 12. Meyer died at the age of 22 on March 1. Her death was ruled a suicide according to her family. Photo by Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times
Cailin BrackenPhoto by Vanderbilt Athletics

Cailin Bracken arrived at Vanderbilt to play lacrosse already well aware of the importance of athlete mental health. She knew of at least two female college athletes, including one from near where she grew up, who had taken their own lives.

Bracken was overwhelmed by college life, especially when she had to isolate upon testing positive for COVID-19 after just a few days on campus. She decided to leave the team.

“I was so self-aware. I was just so trusting of my intuition in a way, and it sounds cliche, but the idea that I’m like, I need to go home even if it doesn’t feel like the right decision to make in terms of my career path or my reputation or whatever else,” she said. “… I felt when I got to college, like my nervous system was deregulated. I couldn’t process anything. I constantly felt overwhelmed. I never felt safe.”

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