HONOLULU (KHON2) — Mental health issues can come in many forms. University of Hawaii football safety, Leonard Lee, highlights the importance of normalizing the topic in athletics.

“They can come to practice, come into a locker room, come into school, class with a smile on their face and happy as can be but then they go home and you never know what they’re struggling with,” said Lee.

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The athletics department is working to tackle mental health issues by providing more resources. This summer they’re hiring a second half-time mental health specialist, implementing mental health screenings for all athletes and planning a mental health awareness week in the fall.

“They’re definitely going in the right direction and getting guys comfortable and getting us the resources that we need in order to share and be comfortable and open up about things,” Lee said.

UH Manoa also released its concussion report for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Football had the most incidents at nine and men’s diving with two. There were 16 diagnosed concussions for the entire year.

Meanwhile, UH Hilo reported four total concussions last school year. There were two incidents for baseball and one each for women’s and men’s soccer, citing a 12-day average for recovery.

Some experts said being proactive and addressing mental health issues can actually help prevent long lasting impacts from concussions.

“If you have a predisposition for some depression, it just slows the process even more and makes the recovery even harder,” said Ross Oshiro of Hawaii Concussion Awareness Management Program.

The university said there are already therapists who live in residence halls to provide after hours care.

Lee said it’s encouraging to see mental health being brought to the forefront.

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“they don’t just care about just our physical appearance, but our mental health and all that. So I think it’s a great idea. We can only get benefits out of it,” said Lee.