After being honorary Iowan’s for a few days, it was back east to the University of Delaware in Newark for a short, but sweet week five. Active Minds chapter leader, Alyssa Friedman, had her fighting Blue Hens ready for action on their Central Green, with her barking stigma fighter, Tucker, willing to lend a helping paw as well. As much as we love dogs, it was also great to see the mothers of Alyssa, and fellow chapter member, Shannon, on hand to show support for the amazing advocacy work their daughters are doing around campus.
While Alyssa was a busy Blue Hen with local interviews throughout the day, it may have been chapter member, Sydney, who provided the most heartwarming moment during the late afternoon. In between classes, Sydney found some extra time to stop back at the display. Midterm exam procrastination allowed her to approach a student who was clearly overwhelmed with emotion. Bravely, she shared that a friend had just survived an attempt, and was currently in the hospital receiving care. While moments like this can often freeze time, our frosty October conditions would not stop Sydney from asking, “Do you need a hug?” The student nodded yes, and they shared a genuine moment of love that could not be replicated. A simple, warm embrace can sometimes make all the difference in the world. It can let others know they’re not alone, better times are ahead, and that we are all here for you. Please take Sydney’s lead, and don’t forget to share the power of a hug with someone who may need one this week.
As our day was coming to an end, Alyssa told us about a great event involving the University of Delaware Ice Hockey team. The Open Net Foundation hosted an event called, “Face-Off for Teen Mental Health.” Following the Delaware hockey game, high school students took the ice, and each skater fundraised with the goal of increasing awareness, education, and financial support to promote positive mental health among teens. Proceeds from the event went to NAMI Delaware, who also had a presence at our Send Silence Packing display.
It’s so crucial to have the conversation of mental health being talked about in the world of sports, and we’ve recently heard vulnerable stories from a few prominent athletes. DeMar DeRozan spoke earlier this year with the Toronto Star, and wanted to help others by being honest about his struggles with depression. Soon after, Kevin Love detailed his on-court panic attack, and opened up even further in his article titled, “Everyone Is Going Through Something.” It can be so difficult for athletes to find a safe space to talk about their mental health struggles, as they’re often taught from a young age to “stay tough”, and “push through it”, by parents and coaches.
Although, a breakthrough may have finally occurred following the snowballing of additional stories from Brian Dawkins and Steve Smith, which led to the Carolina Panthers creating a position for a director of player wellness. Panther’s ownership wanted to invest in the mental health of its players, as they’ve acknowledged the importance of these issues. With multiple physical trainers working for each team, it only makes sense to have at least one staff specialist to help guide players through their inner battles that are often unseen from fans. Flourishing on the field can be great for a team, city, or even an entire state, but it’s far more important that our hometown athletes are also flourishing off the field. Hopefully, this will further engage all athletic teams to mandate the hiring of a wellness expert on staff, as mental health is the only game that truly matters.