Big Ten shares plans for new league-wide mental health initiative

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Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren shared details about the conference’s new league-wide mental health initiate on Monday.

The Big Ten announced in December that it was forming a Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet, which consists of a board of representatives with 31 members from the 14 universities and two affiliate members — Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, which play lacrosse and hockey in the Big Ten, respectively. 

The cabinet members include mental health educators, medical doctors, faculty athletic representatives and senior women’s administrators and more, who “will take a comprehensive, systemic and interdisciplinary approach to establishing mental health programs, while also providing counsel, advice and expertise to the conference office,” the conference said in a statement.

“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,” Warren said in a statement. “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.”

The Big Ten shared details about its new mental health initiative on Monday, and announced that it had purchased the Calm app for all of its athletes and personnel. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)
The Big Ten shared details about its new mental health initiative on Monday, and announced that it had purchased the Calm app for all of its athletes and personnel. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)

One of the cabinet’s first moves was to purchase the Calm app — a sleep, meditation and relaxation mobile app with more than 100 hours of original audio content that was also named Apple’s App of the Year in 2017 — for all of its athletes and personnel. 

“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,” Warren said in a statement.

“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 news comes just days after Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer detailed his lengthy battle with anxiety and depression in an Instagram post — which he did to help bring attention to Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health was just one topic Warren addressed on Monday. The conference extended its suspension of all organized team activities through June 1 due to the coronavirus, and Warren said during an interview with the Big Ten Network that college campuses have to be safe before sports could resume at all. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of the Big Ten potentially fielding its own football season this fall — something SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has said multiple times. 

“[Power Five commissioners] had a call this morning and I think what I said is that we will always be the Big Ten. And the Big Ten is the Big Ten for a certain reason,” Warren said on the Big Ten Network. “Which means we will always — to the best of our abilities — do what we feel is the right thing to do.  

“Sometimes that may mean that we’re with a group. Sometimes that may mean that we do things from an independent standpoint. But I will always say that my goal is to make sure that we feel comfortable that we do the right thing and that we remember that we have a responsibility with our brand, with our universities.”

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