Next week, UNCG Athletics will participate in a Southern Conference-wide initiative to raise awareness about mental health, reduce the stigma of seeking mental health resources, and promote resources available to student-athletes. The initiative, created by the SoCon Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, will be ongoing throughout the year, but will kick off during the Mental Health Awareness Week Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.
UNCG Athletics will host multiple “Green” events in honor of the initiative, where student-athletes will wear something green to show their support. Those include the women’s soccer game against Mercer Sunday, Sept. 29; the women’s golf tournament on Monday, Sept 30, and Tuesday, Oct 1; the softball game against Catawba on Saturday, Oct. 5, and the volleyball match against Wofford, also on that Saturday.
UNCG Athletics has produced a mental health awareness video that will be shown throughout the week on social media and at athletic events. Additionally, there will be a banner for student-athletes to sign to pledge to help end the stigma. There will also be several events to support student-athletes, including a workshop about mental health and a de-stress dinner. All students are encouraged to wear green to support mental health awareness on Friday, Sept. 4. The initiative uses the hashtag #SoConnected to unite the universities’ efforts.
“The message is that it’s okay to ask for help,” says sports psychologist Dr. Jen Farrell, who holds a dual appointment with UNCG Athletics and the Department of Kinesiology. “The ‘Green’ initiative is a great way for athletes to share the message with each other, and also with the campus community.”
Farrell, who was a college athlete at Bryn Mawr and earned her doctorate from UNCG, provides mental health services to student-athletes and directs UNCG’s applied sports psychology master’s program, helping them complete internships through Athletics. She provides training and education to staff about how to have difficult conversations and how to refer students for services. She also teaches students about identity development and how to adopt a growth mindset – skills that matter greatly in the athletic arena but could be applicable across campus and for any student. She says that, statistically, student-athletes don’t experience more mental health concerns than other groups, but they are less likely to seek help for them.
“One of my goals to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health,” she says. “I want to help people become more comfortable asking for help and reaching out. And it’s nice to be in a place where mental health is valued.”
To learn more about the SoCon Mental Health Awareness Week, follow the hashtag #SoConnected.
By Susan Kirby-Smith