Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Health, Sport and Exercise Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Health, Human Performance and Recreation


Sarah Stokowski

Committee Member

Stephen Dittmore

Second Committee Member

Erin Kern Popejoy

Third Committee Member

Leslie Jo Shelton


Mental health, Student-athletes


Nearly half (48%) of collegiate football student-athletes are African American (NCAA, 2018). African American student-athletes face adversity at their respective institutions in the forms of racism and unfair treatment (Hill, Hall & Appleton, 2010). African American male student-athletes face educational stressors, campus stressors and athletic stressors. These stressors consist of academics, family, athletics and social relationships (Miller & Hoffman, 2009). Many African American student-athletes do not seek mental health treatment due to their status on campus (Watson, 2006). However, few studies have examined mental health and barriers for African American male student-athletes when seeking mental health services. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine the role of mental health with African American male Division I football players, as well as the perceived barriers they face in seeking professional treatment. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine African American football student-athletes at a Division I, Power 5 institution. Research produced four major themes. Two themes were associated with the first research question. Stress and “We don’t need it.” The second research question identified weakness and silence as major themes. Data suggested that stress played a role in the lives of these participants. “We don’t need it” focused on the participants perception that they did not need mental health treatment. Participants felt that football served as therapy. Data revealed that the second research question was defined by weakness and silence.. Silence was explained by the lack of awareness and promotion of mental health services. The results of this study allow for the NCAA, Coaching Staff’s, Athletic Departments and Communities to provide assistance in seeking mental health treatment and eliminating the barriers associated with seeking mental health treatment. This study will help promote the understanding of African American male Division I football players and how they perceive the role of mental health within their lives. It will also provide clear insight to barriers that this population faces when seeking mental health services. Mental health continues to be an epidemic in the United States that deserves the attention of mental health practitioners, government agencies, the general population student-athletes, coaches and families.