New normal: Mental health provider for YSU sports discusses increased needs for student-athletes


Dr. Joseph Marzano says he's seen up to a 20% increase in referrals in recent weeks, as student-athletes continue to adjust to life during the pandemic

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Mental health is an important topic right now for everyone, including those in the sports world.

Youngstown State University has been proactive in helping their student-athletes, developing a mental health plan from the onset of the pandemic. The athletic department sent out surveys to all the athletes to identify those who were most at risk.

“The main thing is communication and support,” said Dr. Joseph Marzano, a mental health provider for the YSU sports program. “The one thing that they’re cut off from immediately is that cohesion and the collaboration of just being with their peers.”

Dr. Marzano, a Canfield native, has worked with YSU students for the past three years and says he’s found students to be resilient during this time.

“They might have to be a little bit more creative and a little bit more organized to set up a Zoom meeting or set up a team meeting, but my main initial message is let’s maintain contact,” he said.

Marzano said he’s seen up to a 20% increase in referrals in recent weeks with students of all ages. Underclassmen are working through potential scholarship factors, while seniors are left pondering their futures.

“They were struggling more for, ‘Am I leaving and am I ever coming back?” said Marzano. “If they end up coming back in the fall or not. A lot of this is up in the air so a lot of them were not even sure if this was the last time they would be on campus.”

Sports have a unique way of bringing people together through the seasons and Marzano says even non-sports people are feeling the effects of no competitive athletics. Ultimately, everyone is craving a sense of normalcy.

“I do kind of like the idea of a ‘new normal’ because it means insight, it means growth, it means that we’ve learned something from an experience,” said Marzano. “I’m not necessarily going to be the same as I was before because this changed me and hopefully it’s positive change.”

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