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  • Ian Livingston Brooking

Coastal student-athletes breaking the stigma of mental health

Last week, student-athletes at Coastal Carolina were promoting the importance of mental health by making social media posts across Instagram and Twitter in hopes of breaking the stigma of mental health.

Members of the Coastal Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) have been making their presence known all over campus, wearing wristbands and showing off posters with the phrase “Strong Ain’t Wrong”.

Kelsey Briggs, a member of the Coastal Carolina Track and Field team and the president of SAAC, talked about what SAAC is and gave a little more detail in regards to their efforts to break the stigma of mental health.

“SAAC is a nationwide network of student-athletes, ranging from the division to the division three level, with the goal of serving our community,” said Briggs. “We are big on community service. All throughout the semester, we have been planning things on campus and out in the community. Recently, we have been talking about mental health of student-athletes and how we can break that stigma and help out each other.”

According to a report done by the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute, thirty percent of student-athletes self-reported they are negatively impacted by mental health. In that same study, twenty-four percent of student-athletes surveyed reported clinically relevant levels of depression.

On Jan. 16, 2018, Tyler Hilinski, a quarterback at Washington State University, died at his residence in Pullman, Wa. His death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and his death was ruled as a suicide.

This tragic event is what sparked the conversation about mental health among student-athletes.

“A lot of times people have mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, and people don’t say anything,” said Briggs. “There is a certain thing called ‘athlete burnout’ where you just become so exhausted and sick of everything. What we mean by breaking the stigma of mental health is that it is okay to open your mouth and ask for help.”

Cari Rosiek, associate athletic director and student athlete enhancement/senior woman administrator at Coastal Carolina, is the advisor to SAAC. Rosiek was also a member of the committee when she played softball for Coastal Carolina from 1996 to 1999.

Rosiek talked about the importance of SAAC.

“SAAC has been a group that was formed many years ago that the NCAA initiated really to get student-athletes more involved in the leadership aspects of collegiate athletics and become more of a voice,” said Rosiek. “There is not only a SAAC on campus, there is the Sun Belt SAAC and then there is also the national SAAC.”

Rosiek also touched on the importance of the mental health of student-athletes.

“As a former student-athlete and having worked with them for many years, mental health is extremely important among student-athletes,” said Rosiek. “Student-athletes have a very rigid schedule, and their down time is very limited throughout the semester.”

Members of SAAC have been working on raising the awareness of mental health back in February and look forward to doing more to benefit fellow student-athletes in the fight to break the stigma of mental health.

“In February, we focused on stress and in March we focused on depression,” said Briggs. “In March, we participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk and helped raise money for that cause. While some of us couldn’t be there for the actual walk itself, we formed a team and raised nearly $150 and all that money was donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”

Briggs says that SAAC plans to do more in regards to mental health awareness throughout the whole year.

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