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Hawthorne student-athletes and coaches reflect on the mental health conversation

HAWTHORNE, Fla. – Jazz Jackson is a senior at Hawthorne. She’s also an athlete.

“You have got to get to school on time cause this school starts real early, so I have to get to school on time. Make sure you do your work in class because if you don't do your work then these teachers will get to this coach, and you will be running,” Jackson said.

The life of a student-athlete is heavily consumed.

"These kids show up here at 8 o'clock in the morning, most of the time they don't leave until 5 in the afternoon. So we're spending more time with players, student-athletes than parents,” Hawthorne’s Head football and girls basketball coach Cornelius Ingram said.

Hawthorne's Athletic Director Dustin Adkins said they make sure student-athletes know they have the support.

"Really it's just building those tight-knit bonds with your student-athletes so when you notice any little or minor changes cause, it's sad to say but in this day and age any little minor change can result in major, major things happening in the future,” Adkins said.

Licensed psychologist Dr. Amanda Janner said these changes are not visible like a physical injury.

"An X-ray will show you what's wrong versus something with mental health that may be more concealed or even be encouraged to be concealed,” Dr. Janner said.

The pressures can get overwhelming.

"Especially towards me like, I'm the senior, I bring the energy to the team. But, when I go down I feel like my team go down and I be trying to boost them up, I be like 'I know I'm down right now but like y'all have to come up so we can win this game.' Like, when I got hurt Tuesday, I felt like it was just down bad,” Jazz Jackson said.

That's when she and her teammates have each other's backs the most.

“Coaches, they like this, like you can talk to them and it’s like talking to like your dad, father cause they know where you coming from, and if you need them they're like one call away, really,” Jackson said.

"I just try to be really active in their lives and a positive role model because I know how important it is,” Cornelius Ingram said.

As a former University of Florida football and Philadelphia Eagles player, Cornelius Ingram said he understands the intensity.

“A coach or a teammate might say 'Oh man you're being soft,' 'Oh man you're being too emotional.' And I don't think a lot of people took it as serious back then. But now, it's very important,” Ingram said.

High-profile athletes like Simon Biles shed light on their struggles hoping to help rising stars like Jazz.

Dr. Janner said being able to speak openly about mental health helps take away some of that stigma, and urges people to seek proper resources if they are having trouble coping.

To reach the Alachua County Crisis Center call (352) 264-6789 and for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, call or text 988.

Camila is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.
Christopher is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.