Carie Kuehn

This is a hard era to be a high schooler in. Let alone a high school athlete.

The growth of social media over the last few years has done some really awesome things to high school sports. Fans and media members can get live updates and scores from Twitter or Facebook live. Athletes from different schools who would have never socialized before have new ways to communicate and create relationships. Coaches share and involve others in the team’s growth and process.

But with all those positives comes a slew of negatives as well. Social media can quickly turn toxic and cruel, attacking anyone with a differing opinion. You can see it on any trending post or topic, and unfortunately high schoolers are not excluded from it.

Granted, it affects everyone differently. Some people can let it roll of their backs, laugh it off and move on. I know that when I was in high school, that would not have been the case for me. It would have eaten at me and sent me into a state of questioning everything. It was a different time.

But that’s why prep athletes especially need to be aware of their own mental states. Mental health is such a big deal and it’s especially important when you’re pouring yourself into a craft.

Bettendorf graduate and Ohio State freshman DJ Carton recently blew up on Twitter when he announced he was stepping away from his position with the team for a while.

In the post, Carton references talks with his coaches, teammates and his family before he decided to take his leave. He states:

“I felt it was important to be transparent as to why I’m taking this break. I have been suffering with mental health issues for a couple years. I have been through a lot. I’m disappointed to say that I’m not 100% right now. I am not doing my teammates justice is I don’t work on this now. I am doing everything in my power to strengthen my mental health.”

Carton goes on to say that part of his fight will be for Buckeye nation, and that the journey will help him come back stronger than before.”

Of course, there were a scattering of negative replies even to this post, including things like eye roll emojis and name calling. Most of the responses were overwhelmingly positive .

It’s more of a rare thing to see an athlete – especially high-profile, DI athletes – be so blatant about their mental health. But it shouldn’t be.

High school athletes in particular should look at this. Carton took a leap of faith in his support system and shared. Then he did the most important part of the process – he decided to take care of himself.

It’s difficult balancing high school and sports, especially for the athletes that play constantly and year-round. Add in social media and then college searches and recruiting and it just continues to grow.

The best part, especially about our local, Midwest area, is that the support system is there. Being aware of where you’re at mentally is the first step and then knowing when you need to take a break for you is the next.

It can be hard – but it’s better than going until you break.

My favorite quote from the Twitter post, which came less than a week ago, speaks about the support system. It rings true whether you’re a Buckeye or you’re playing in Clinton Iowa:

“If you are going through mental health issues, I have learned from this that you are loved and valued.”