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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signs bill requiring mental health training for public high school, college coaches

Sam Cohn, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Health & Fitness

BALTIMORE — It’s a right of passage into Mike Locksley’s Maryland football program to participate in the ‘3 H’s’ meeting. Newcomers stand before teammates, coaches and staff to share about their hero, a highlight of their life and a hardship. It’s one of a few crucial Terps mental health touchpoints.

Head coach always goes first. By Locksley opening his heart, he’s creating a space for shared vulnerability where others can see, “Coach has got some things he’s really proud of,” he said, “but also, he’s faced some tough times.”

Personal tragedy forged Locksley’s path intertwining mental health with his football-filled life. Which is why he and his program are in favor of recently passed legislation that prioritizes steps to address the worsening mental health in student-athletes.

Senate Bill 165, which was signed into law by Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday, mandates all Maryland public high school and college institutions provide training for participating coaches to recognize indicators of mental illness and behavioral distress in students. That includes signs of depression, trauma, violence, youth suicide and substance abuse.

The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, takes effect July 1. Maryland follows Ohio as the second state to pass similar legislation for high school coaches but is first to include public universities.

Locksley’s third H, his tragedy, is when he shares that his son, Meiko, was shot and killed in 2017. Meiko was 25, later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which can reveal itself through bipolar or depressive episodes. Burned into Mike’s memory is the desolate look he saw in his once-buoyant son.

 

“It’s almost like a glassy-eyed stare,” he said. “Almost like you can see their soul through their eyes; which is what triggered me. Seeing that look in his eyes, I’ve seen that look before in players that I’ve coached in the past. At the time, I wasn’t trained. Had no idea what it meant. I saw that stare in a number of players that have dealt with mental health issues that aren’t familiar with it. It was almost eerie for me to see it. Like, why have I seen this before?”

Locksley and his staff have not yet taken formal training. But mental health is an ongoing conversation in College Park, starting from their 3 H’s introduction and persisting with Thursday all-staff meetings –– a scheduled space to take the pulse of the team.

Not every program is so active on the matter.

“Coaches have told us that they feel ill-equipped to deal with some of the things they see on the field, on the court or in the locker rooms,” the bill’s lead Senate sponsor, Sen. Shelly Hettleman, told The Baltimore Sun. “This will be a mechanism to get them better training on how to connect their players with services they need.”

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©2024 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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