AIC athletes bring attention to student mental health struggles
The women's lacrosse team at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, has teamed up with Morgan's Message, a nonprofit focusing on improving the mental health of student athletes.
During its game Wednesday, there will be sports psychologists onhand as well as representatives of the nonprofit to offer information and help students who may be struggling with the stresses of school, sports and life in general.
Lauren Smithers is a senior defender on the AIC team. She said she wants student athletes to feel comfortable expressing their struggles and asking for help.
"By doing Morgan's Message, it really helps because we are now transitioning AIC into a place where you can talk about things. We have sports psychologists on staff and we want to be able to have these sports psychologists come to practices and meet with the team to see ways we can be better on and off the field," Smithers said.
Being a college student is hard enough without adding the pressure of competitive sports, she said.
"There are so many struggles of being a student athlete. One of the biggest struggles is being able to balance your time, like going to practice and then finding ways to do your homework and tutoring done if needed and from everything in between," she said.
According to a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, while nine out of 10 Americans say they would do something if they were worried about someone’s mental health, only a third say they are willing to talk about it with others.
Smithers said it is important to share those feelings of stress or sadness with others who are willing to help.
"I would say it's OK not to be OK. That's what Morgan's Message is trying to get at. We're trying to eliminate the stigma around student athletes' mental health," she said. "It's OK to talk to your friend, to talk to a psychologist, to talk to your coach, because they will be there for you no matter what. And it's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign that you're putting in the work."
AIC is joining 10 other women's lacrosse teams in its athletic conference, all of which are participating in the mental health awareness campaign.