Oregon State athletes are leading a campaign to propel mental health awareness in college athletics into a national discussion.
Titled #DamWorthIt, the purpose of the initiative is to boost sensibilities of mental health in sports and remove the stereotype that athletes are invincible. The campaign is being pioneered by former Oregon State gymnast Taylor Ricci and current men's soccer team member Nathan Braaten.
"Our goal is to destigmatize and spread awareness about the epidemic of mental health in collegiate athletics," Ricci said. "The stresses of performing at a high level both academically and athletically are intense, and can lead to severe depression and in some cases suicide, as we tragically learned at Washington State this week and recently on the OSU campus."
The launch of the campaign follows the apparent suicide of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who died this week. The cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Ricci and Braaten said their intention was always to reveal the project this week.
The two Beaver athletes told USA Today they have witnessed the harrowing effects depression can have on athletes and those around them. Their plan is to open up an avenue where athletes can discuss their worries and anxieties to cope with the stress of being a college athlete.
"What professionals have told us is that there is so much power in peer-to-peer connections and conversations," Ricci said. "Our hope is that any fear someone has - of a reduction in playing time, of their image or perception on campus being shattered - that we can take this risk for them by starting the conversation, and they they'll feel comfortable following our lead."