Pitt athletics creates mental health partnership with Western Psychiatric Institute | TribLIVE.com
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Jerry Dipaola
Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke speaks to the media during a round table discussion Wednesday April 25, 2018 at Petersen Events Center.

Two full-time mental health counselors are joining Pitt athletics in a partnership with the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC (WPIC).

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said the partnership will “provide early intervention for mental health and wellness issues in student-athletes.”

“The program reflects Pitt’s commitment to the student-athlete experience and ensures Pitt’s responsiveness to the health and well-being of our student-athletes,” Lyke said.

The program’s focal points will include awareness and stress reduction strategies and one-on-one counseling. Counselors also will address issues of substance use.

“The new partnership will expand and enhance the role of behavioral health with two full-time counselors who will be housed within the athletic department and dedicated to student-athletes,” said Jack Calahene, chief of adult services at WPIC. “This innovative approach will radically increase education on support options, along with access and timeliness of counseling services, while decreasing stigma.”

Two-time Pitt graduate and four-year cheerleader Kristen Mackel, L.C.S.W., joins the program as lead clinical counselor. Since 2015, Mackel had been working as a member of a team of counselors who worked with Pitt student-athletes when they were referred directly to the WPIC facility.

She has worked with Pitt student-athletes on psychiatric assessments and referrals, individual therapy, treatment for mood and anxiety disorders, stress and time management, concussion and injury symptoms and has provided phone coaching and crisis management interventions.

Under the new model, Mackel will work from the Petersen Events Center where she will interact daily with student-athletes.

Leigh Skvarla, Ph.D., N.C.C., will serve as clinical counselor. She has provided counseling and peak performance services to student-athletes at Waynesburg University and offered individual and team-based services at West Virginia University. Most recently, Skvarla has worked with youth, adolescent and adult performers through KPEX Consulting in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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