CHKD program teaches young athletes about importance of mental health on and off the field


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A program at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk wants to remind young athletes they don’t have to be Olympians to struggle with mental health issues in sports.

The Sports Medicine program developed the Mindfulness Coaching program over a year ago to help minimize the stigma of talking about mental health in sports and teach athletes important lessons of how to cope.

It’s a lesson Elijah Munden learned the hard way.

The 17-year-old was benched from wrestling, football, basketball and baseball 10 months ago after tearing his ACL.

“People don’t realize how hard it is when you go from living an everyday life to ‘I need help showering, I need help going to the bathroom, I have to go to therapy, but it hurts every single day,'” he said.

His physical therapist recommended he enroll in the Mindfulness Coaching program at CHKD to teach him how to cope with mental health issues young athletes face.

Program Medical Director Dr. Joel Brenner says it looks to teach athletes proper ways to cope with common stressors.

“The intrinsic stress they put on themselves that might be unrealistic but also ways to manage stress that’s put on by their coaches, by their team,” said Brenner.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate the mental health stigma in the sports world.

“[The stigma] that mental health is different from a physical problem ’cause there’s really that connection too,” he said. “You can have mental health issues, anxiety, and it’s going to cause some physical symptoms also.”

Elijah says he’s feeling better every day and hopes he can get on the field this school year.

He hopes to encourage more conversations about mental health on and off the field, too.

“I wish I would’ve known before there was an injury because it’s not just injured athletes, athletes in general still deal with depression, anxiety even when fully, physically healthy,” said Munden. “But, it wasn’t talked about and it’s something that I feel should be brought to the light.”

The program is currently seeing patients through telehealth.

Learn more about the program and find out how to enroll here.

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