Once upon a time, being a kid and being an athletic kid seemed like the absolute best of all worlds. No real world concerns and the opportunity to play a game that you love seems like a dream come true.
Something has changed and it certainly has not changed for the better. Now, I am not a psychologist or doctor so what I am saying is coming from having read a bunch of different articles on this subject over the last year or so. What motivated me to start on this project was hearing about another young person with her whole life ahead of her taking her own life. The numbers of kids who are ending their lives is shocking and terrifying, to say the least.
In late 2018, Sports Illustrated ran an article about two college athletes trying to get their peers and the schools they play at to begin to treat the athletes’ mental health with the same level of urgency as they do their physical well being. We all know that most physical injuries are fairly easy to see. A sprained ankle or broken arm have clear symptoms that everyone can see and understand.
Mental health is a whole other issue. There are hundreds of different things that can all negatively impact a players frame of mind. In the SI article, we meet two athletes from Oregon State University who both faced the trauma of losing teammates to suicide and the overwhelming emotional and mental challenges associated with that loss.
Circumstances brought these athletes together and after long and heart-wrenching discussions came to the conclusion that it was time for something to change. It was time for the mental health of athletes to be taken more seriously and for awareness to increase to start the process of change that might save lives in the future.
They created an organization focused on athlete mental health and called it #DAMWORTHIT. Built on three fundamental beliefs of education, awareness and support/comfort, they were off and running. Spreading their message at sporting events, distributing wrist bands and information, they got the ball rolling. They plan to do seminars at all the PAC 12 schools to share their message and create the momentum needed to get more schools and more conferences on board.
This article paints an optimistic picture that has risen from a set of very sad circumstances. What it also does is remind us that the mental health of our athletes and kids in general needs to be a higher priority. Teen suicide is the extreme end of the spectrum, but the cost is too high to ignore.
If one kid gets the help they need we have won the lottery.
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.