by Abigail Czerniecki ’19
Several of Providence College’s clubs and departments, such as Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Active Minds, Athletics, and Student and Academic Affairs, have teamed up to bring awareness of mental illness to campus and express the idea, “You’re Never Alone In Friartown.”
This past Monday, February 12, these groups sponsored an event in Mullaney Gymnasium to bring awareness to mental illness not only to the athletes on PC’s campus, but the whole Friar Family. Guest speakers Kate Fagan, ESPN reporter and author of What Made Maddy Run, and former WNBA player Chamique Holdsclaw provided a thought-provoking discussion that touched upon their personal experiences as Division I athletes and the idea that it is okay not to be okay.
Fagan, a former DI basketball player for the University of Colorado -Boulder, shared her experiences dealing with anxiety throughout college specifically as a freshman, recalling the hardships she endured and the fear she felt being a part of a new school as well as a new team. It was because of Fagen’s athletic trainers, coaches, teammates, and resources that were on her campus that she was able to take the beginning steps in overcoming her anxiety.
Holdsclaw, who played DI basketball for the University of Tennessee, was selected as the first round draft pick in the WNBA 1999 draft, and was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. What many may not know is that this talented athlete struggled with mental illness throughout her career. Through the many resources that were offered to her by her college campus, her teammates, and coaches she is able to live rather than just exist.
Together Fagan and Holdsclaw created a discussion that touched upon the importance of acknowledging that colleges attitudes today that glorify pushing through pain and proving one’s strengths in athletics areunhealthy, the importance of mental health, and removal of the “mask” that covers the not so perfect world of PC students.
The discussion covered several aspects that surround mental illness including—social media, “masking,” third party validation, and the fear of having conversations about mental illness. The two guest speakers provided some answers and helpful hints to initiate the beginning steps in making PC’s campus a campus that will support one another, create healthy validation, and become better educated about mental illness.
The main goal of this event was to inform PC students that they are never alone in the process. John Rock, head athletic trainer and creator of the slogan “You’re Never Alone in Friartown,” expressed to the attendees that there are so many people around campus that are ready and willing to help and that no one should feel as though a mental illness is a weakness.
Kari Moyer ’19, a member of the PC Women’s Field Hockey Team said that the event was, “Eye-opening in the lives of student athletes and students alike who suffer through mental illness, and shed light on how athletes tend to think that they have to push through any tough time and adversity they go through, when in actuality they should not feel weak asking for help.” The event brought awareness to PC students who may have never had the chance to discuss or think about metal illness.
Fagan and Holdsclaw emphasized the significance of being there for one another and sometimes that means just lending an ear to a friend or teammate and listening. David Procopio ’19, a member of the Men’s Lacrosse Team, understood the message Fagan and Holdsclaw gave, “I now have the confidence to know what to do in a situation involving mental health, and it is my responsibility as well as my fellow athletes and peers’ to make sure we support and take care of one another, because we are after all a friar family.”
Now is the time to get connected and interact with PC’s campus and to make the ties that already exist even stronger. PC has several resources and clubs one can get involved in to help bring awareness of mental health across campus. Like Fagan said, “we don’t have to reinvent the wheel” we just have to build upon it.