You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
The life of a college athlete may seem perfect to an outsider. They can be performing well and look happy, all while struggling with their mental health. After five NCAA athletes died by suicide in the last academic year, more organizations and athletes are speaking out to end mental health stigma.
“It’s important to look for risk factors in those around you,” said Dr. Casey Tallent, the Director of Collegiate Health Initiatives at the Eating Recovery Center. “You may not hear specific trigger words, but there are certain signs to be aware of such as hopelessness, impulsive tendencies, isolation, stigma, and a perceived lack of available help.”
Organizations such as Morgan’s Message and the Madison Holleran Fund were created as a resource for college athletes in response to two tragedies. The Holleran family lost Madison to suicide in 2014 and the Rodgers family lost Morgan to suicide in 2019. Although their stories are different, they were both Division I athletes who struggled with mental health in silence.
“We started Morgan’s Message in honor of Morgan, but it was really established in a way to honor all of the student-athletes out there that have lost their battles with mental illness,” Morgan’s mother Donna Rodgers said.
Today, Morgan’s message works to amplify the voices of student-athletes and tell their stories. They also provide resources and expertise to confront mental health challenges. Through their podcast and college ambassador program, the organization helps build a transparent community for athletes.
Shortly after Holleran’s death, her oldest sister Carli Bushoven helped form the Madison Holleran Foundation with the goal to prevent suicides and provide resources to those in a crisis situation. Since Holleran struggled with the transition to college, the organization also has a mission to prepare high school seniors and college freshmen for college life and the challenges that come with it.
Bushoven spoke about Holleran at the “Say it Brave on Campus” Event on Sept. 28 and emphasized her sister's need for perfection and a happy online persona. Bushoven said that her little sister suffered from what’s called “destructive perfectionism.” Holleran was obsessed with being the best in the classroom and on track. She also didn’t want people to know she was struggling, so she continuously posted pictures of herself smiling and with friends on social media.