On May 4, through an innovative and inclusive social media campaign, Union Athletics decided to attack the stigma related to the mental health of athletes. They chose to interview athletes from a variety of Union’s varsity sports programs and asked them their opinion on this topic, and what they thought could and should be done to end the stigma. Their thoughts and words were shared via Union Athletics Instagram page (@unionathletics).
Athletes are told from the time they are young they need to be tough, strong, and do everything in their power to win. The old adage “winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing,” is ingrained in the minds of young and future collegiate athletes. The pressure put on the athletes by their coaches, their teammates, and themselves can often prove too much and do serious damage to their mental and emotional well being. Those suffering, due to the fear of being considered a disappointment or their feelings delegitimize, tend to suffer in silence. The campaign started by Union Athletics makes the mental health for athletes a priority, it is time to end the stigma.
The first athlete to share her thoughts was Softball player Makayla Koehler ’21, she said, “To me, breaking the stigma of mental health means being open to personal conversations with parents, teammates, and coaches. Nobody should be afraid to be honest about how they are feeling, nor should anybody make it seem like you shouldn’t feel a certain way. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and being healthy in both will allow us to be strong on and off the field.” Koehler’s teammate, Lindsey Podlaski ’22 shared her words with Union Athletics as well, “breaking the stigma of mental health begins with connecting with our teammates, coaches, trainers, and the community. We need to develop an open mind and understand that we all face struggles in our lives. By getting closer with one another – both on and off the field – it can allow us to build a tighter bond, understand and help one another to achieve our goals.”
Representing Men’s Basketball, Andrew Laub ’21 said “breaking the stigma surrounding mental health to me is about maintaining a healthy environment where anyone can feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions freely to their peers and coaches at all times. It’s important to be there for your teammates unconditionally and always ensure that there is a platform for players to discuss things going on outside of sports that they struggle with. Being part of a team is bigger than sports and people should always know that their teammates are there for them at any time no matter what.”
Their stories and words are very important and will hopefully inspire the future athletes, coaches, and fans to create a more inclusive environment and break the stigma.