Mental Health Awareness in Athletics | Sports in the region

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the importance of mental health applies to athletes. Within two months, five NCAA athletes died by suicideincluding JMU softball player Lauren Bernett.

The River View softball team took the initiative to highlight the importance of mental health and honor the fallen softball player. Coaches send their players a ESPN Video that lead to the discussion of mental health. The players also wore purple hair ribbons during their match to show their solidarity.

“We have a lot of athletes who have been through different things,” Panthers head coach Frances Camp said. “When we saw that unfortunately there had been a traumatic event, we wanted to honor JMU. We wanted to talk about mental health with our athletes. It just opened up new conversations.”

Athletes have a lot of pressures both in and out of sport. Panthers third baseman and outfielder Anna Cooper says her busy schedule would be too much with her support system. Cooper is also president of the ASB and participates in the FFA.

“I would say mental health affects everyone differently,” Cooper said. “For me, that case of stress comes from being so busy. You come home after a week and you’re mentally exhausted. It’s hard to get up the next day and want to start all over again, but when you have the good coaches and people pushing you, it makes you want to stand up. It makes you want to see those people, to have those relationships.

Senior pitcher Kaylynn Coates spoke of a tough time when she almost hung up her cleats. Playing softball since he was 3 years old, a serious car accident caused his previous team to lose confidence on the field.

“I felt like no one believed in me,” Coates recalled, “and no one believed in me that I could come back.”

It made her think her playing days were over and thus painted a grim picture of mental health until she received the support she needed. Strengthened by her support with the Panthers, she is back on the mound.

“There’s a reason you’re here,” Coates said of what kept him going. “Do not give up.”

Without the right support system, athletes can find it difficult to ask for help, and the Panther softball program wants to raise awareness of the issues that many athletes go through.

“Once they have their cleats on, we get to the game,” assistant coach Jennifer Morris said. “Once it’s over, we laugh, we joke, we play.”

River View Softball the team upset Cle Elum 10-7 Tuesday and advance to the District 5 Semi-Finals on Friday, May 20 where they will face Warden. If the Panthers win, they’ll win a trip to the state.

Mental health resources:For athletes:

Mental Health and Athletes – Athletes for Hope

Other mental health resources:

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-talk

Crisis text line: text HELLO to 741741

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