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Harvard Athletics Department and HUHS Receive Anonymous Gift to Support Student-Athlete Mental Health

The Harvard Athletics Department's "Crimson Mind and Body Performance Program" received a donation to expand its ability to offer mental health services to Harvard athletes and coaches.
The Harvard Athletics Department's "Crimson Mind and Body Performance Program" received a donation to expand its ability to offer mental health services to Harvard athletes and coaches. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Michelle G. Kurilla and Devin B. Srivastava, Crimson Staff Writers

Over the summer, the Harvard Athletics Department and Harvard University Health Services received an anonymous donation to provide additional mental health services for student-athletes.

The gift comes one year after the launch of the Crimson Mind and Body Performance Program. Specifically tailored to College students on varsity sports teams, the Crimson Mind and Body Performance Program offers mental health screenings, education, and care through workshops designed for student-athletes and their coaches. The program started in response to survey data collected by HUHS from several varsity seasons, according to a press release.

HUHS Director Paul J. Barreira said in a summer press release that he was grateful to the anonymous donors for funding the continued growth of the mental health program.

“By providing this gift, the donors are recognizing in a public way the need to support these kinds of initiatives, not only for student athletes but all college students,” Barreira said.

Prior to the gift, the Crimson Mind and Body Performance Program held student-athlete discussion workshops every 3-4 weeks, along with coaches workshops to promote communication between Counseling and Mental Health Services and the Harvard Athletics Department. Let’s Talk — a University-wide program that provides informal, confidential 15-minute conversations with CAMHS clinicians — offers services at Blodgett Pool, in the center of the athletics complex. Crimson Mind and Body has also designated two licensed clinicians specifically for student-athletes; beginning this year, both clinicians will now focus exclusively on student-athlete mental health services.

Michael J. Zarian ’21, co-chair of the Student Wellness Committee on the Student Athlete Advisory Council, said the impact of having full-time clinicians for SAAC and student-athletes as a whole was measurable.

“To see that we have two clinicians that are dedicated just to the athletics program is really reassuring for a lot of athletes,” Zarian said.

Licensed independent clinical social worker Melissa Nauman said her goal for this year was to expand on last year’s resources by increasing workshops for teams and coaches while also creating more availability for individual counseling sessions.

“It’s really been an expansion of doing more of what we did last year,” Nauman said.

Licensed mental health counselor Darryl Lemus said anonymous surveys guide the program on how effectively it has reached Harvard's student-athlete population and how to best supplement mental health support given by coaches.

Associate Director of Athletics for Student-Athletic Health and Performance Brant Berkstresser wrote in an emailed statement that the Athletics Department is collecting metrics on the utilization of the program’s services – including the number of student-athletes attending workshops, the number of individual student-athlete appointments, coaches’ utilization of drop-in hours, and overall student-athlete mental health statistics.

“These metrics will help drive the programing and direction of the program moving forward,” Berktresser wrote.

Additionally, student athletes on the SAAC have input into topics that Nauman and Lemus address, according to SAAC Co-President Madison Earle ’20.

“Some [topics] include freshman transition, struggling with an injury, or how to transition into not playing a sport any more after your senior year,” Earle said.

Earle added that the program aims to both support student athletes from a mental health perspective while also forging new relationships across teams.

“That’s probably the ultimate goal — to create a program that not only highlights that mental health and well being is important but also creates a community within athletics that allows positive relationships," she said.

—Staff writer Devin B. Srivastava can be reached at

—Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla

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CollegeHealthMental HealthDepartment of Athletics