How do you address mental illness among college athletes? Devan and a group of athletes attending Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, began a campaign to raise awareness and reduce stigma related to mental health conditions. Their campaign, “Heart to Heart,” dedicates each month to a different mental health diagnosis to educate their peers and start a conversation.

Knowing that October is Depression Awareness Month, Devan reached out to Families for Depression Awareness. Devan explained, “it is evident that mental illness is a big deal in the world, especially in athletes. We want to try and put as much of a dent into stigma as we can.” Not only did Heart to Heart share FFDA resources with their peers, but they also held two events to raise funds to support our programs!

Sporting all green to call attention to depression awareness, the athletes wore green shirts, custom Heart to Heart bracelets, drawn-on semicolon tattoos, and lime green scrunchies. The Field Hockey team collected donations during their mental health awareness game. They set up a resource table, greeted athletes as they came by, and played a game to encourage college students to engage.

Later that evening they brought a variety of athletes together to play games of basketball knockout. Their “Knockout Depression” game charged a small fee to play. As the students enjoyed the athletic activity, they continued to talk about depression and available resources. Altogether, Heart for Heart raised $550! 

Peer-to-peer events are an effective way to engage teenagers and young adults. The athletes behind Heart to Heart are using their passion and creativity to benefit their community on campus. We are  thankful for their support and hope other colleges and athletic groups will start similar campaigns.

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