ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) wrapped up its fourth annual "Mental Health Awareness Week" as part of the Mid-American Conference Council of Student-Athletes' yearly initiative last week.
The Ohio SAAC committee members, along with support from several campus offices and student organizations, hosted tabling events, workshops and were active on social media promoting awareness and education centered around mental health issues.
"SAAC is exceptionally proud to support Mental Health Awareness Week, not only to participate in in the MAC-wide initiative, but to also create tangible change on our Ohio campus," said senior track & field distance runner and SAAC president Emily Deering. "Student-athletes need access to specialized mental health resources that are destigmatized and normalized within the athletic department. SAAC believes this holistic approach to competing and recovering is essential for the success and wellbeing of our student-athletes."
As part of the initiative, Ohio students participated in Mental Health First Aid training, hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Wheeling, where SAAC's participation was organized by Ohio field hockey senior Alex Pennington and Associate Professor of Athletic Training Dr. Jeffrey Russell.
"I am privileged to partner with the Student Athlete Advisory Council," said Russell. "Doing so is an easy decision for me because it has become clear that these young people are winners at sports and at life. The visionary students on the council are leading our campus to better understand mental illness, which, without question, is one of the most important topics in our society today."
This year's focus centered around self-harm and suicide prevention, which was supported by Ohio University student-athletes throughout the week. At halftime of the men's Basketball game on Feb. 12, the student-athletes who were recognized for earning Athletic Director's Honor Roll status wore orange ribbons in support of the cause. In addition, the women's basketball wore orange shoe laces during its game at Toledo on Feb. 13.
"There are battles that young people have to face on a daily a basis. Suicide and self-harm is just one. Anything we can do to bring these issues to the table and help start the conversation, we will do," said sixth-year women's basketball head coach Bob Boldon of his team's participation in the case. "Kendall Jessing (senior forward and SAAC social media coordinator) was instrumental in putting this plan into action. She has been a great leader for this team in many different ways."
The week also featured a presentation by former Olympian, Amy Gamble describing her experience with bipolar disorder, Open-Mic Night at Baker Front Room, Yoga Night at Ping Recreation Center and a social media campaign using hashtags "#takingMACtion" and "ItsOkaytoNotBeOkay." Free bracelets, t-shirts and awareness ribbons were given out at tabling events during the week to promote awareness for the cause.
Ohio Athletics photographer, Maddie Schroeder, took the week's culminating photo campaign shots which featured student-athletes who have suffered from injury and lost time from their sport. The photos chronicled their return-to-play journey and those who were pivotal during their rehabilitation stage. The photos and a full recap from last week's event can be viewed on the @OhioSAAC Twitter page.