If I am no longer a student-athlete, what is my identity? That is a question that Ashley Cohagen, a former swimmer for the University of Michigan, found herself asking as she prepared to enter nursing school. It is a question that many student-athletes ask themselves when faced with the end of their athletic career, yet it is a story often left untold. The transition out of sport may stem from graduation, a loss of passion, an injury, or simply a desire to move on. Whatever the reason, it can sometimes feel overwhelming.
For Ashley, the transition out of swimming led to anxiety and panic attacks. “When I was swimming a lot of self-care was built in. I relieved my stress every day…when my career was over and I had fewer outlets my stress slowly built up under the surface. I didn’t know I could or should seek help.”
Seeking professional help, along with a renewed focus on taking care of her mental and physical health, was incredibly helpful in Ashley’s recovery. This ultimately led her to team up with Athletes Connected to make sure that stories like her own are no longer left untold. Athletes Connected is a collaborative program between the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Depression Center, and Athletic Department which aims to create conversation, provide resources, promote positive coping skills, and de-stigmatize help seeking behaviors among student athletes.
“Life after college athletics can be a scary and confusing time, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Ashley. She hopes that sharing her story will encourage others to be proactive about their mental health and to utilize available mental health and career resources. “The University of Michigan has done a fantastic job of developing resources for student athletes to confidently and smoothly shift into their careers. I am proud to work with Athletes Connected to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues and promote mental wellness for all.”
Hear more student-athlete stories and find more resources at: athletesconnected.umich.edu/videos