TEMPE, AZ — For many, sports unites us. But, for others, sports can tear us apart.
"I like sports. I am a fan of sports. I am more of a fan than an active participant most times,” said Dr. Alisia Tran with the Arizona State University Global Sport Institute.
Dr. Tran has spent years reviewing and researching athletes. Over the years, she's come to know sports has the power to build relationships, strengthen relationships and serve as common ground among strangers.
“There is a lot of perception about athletes. There are a lot of stereotypes and a lot of beliefs about athletes that don't always align with individual athletes' experiences,” added Dr. Tran.
She wants to give a voice to athletes by talking about mental health. It’s a topic she believes is not well-understood when it relates to athletics.
Last November, Dr. Tran did a deep dive.
"I was really trying to understand the trends coming up for athletes and what were their mental health needs to bring light to these issues,” added Dr. Tran.
One thing assumed, she says, is athletes have a built-in protective mechanism. She found rates for mental health concerns for athletes are quite high and are consistent with the general population.
The ASU professor's research found --- 1 in 3 athletes has anxiety...1 in 3 has depression....and suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among athletes.
It's all too real for Maya McClendon, an ASU graduate, and former Sun Devil volleyball player.
"I had a mental health emergency. I had a suicide attempt. It's really difficult to talk about,” said McClendon.
Not only is McClendon talking about it, she's doing something about it.
"We will run through a wall for a ball. Right? We do these abnormal things that are almost inhuman,” added McClendon.
The former volleyball team starter and captain launched the Timeout app.
"It's more than just a mental health app for athletes. That's kind of our one-liner,” added McClendon.
The app. McClendon says. is a digital help platform connecting athletes and licensed providers to virtual and in-person mental health resources.
Dr. Tran encourages all to look at athletes as a whole person and think about overall messaging in sports.
"Is it just winning or is it also being your best, doing your best and excelling and being strong all around,” added Dr. Tran.