CORVALLIS, Ore. (KOIN) — Current and former Oregon State University athletes are launching a new campaign to help end the stigma associated with mental illness.
They call it #DamWorthIt and while it was planned weeks ago, it launches just days after Washington State Cougars quarterback Tyler Hilinkski was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The primary focus of #DamWorthIt is on mental health awareness for student athletes, but everyone can benefit and those entering Gill Coliseum Thursday night for the men’s basketball game against UCLA can learn more at information booths. They want to let everyone know they are #DamWorthIt.
Current Beavers soccer player and finance and economics major Nathan Braaten and former gymnast and exercise and sport science major Taylor Ricci are the driving force behind the campaign. They’re both candid about their experiences with mental illness.
“If we could save just one life, that would be enough,” Braaten said.
According to a statement about the campaign, student athletes are more vulnerable to depression symptoms because of the physical and psychological demands placed on them to continually perform at their best.
“This campaign kinda came out of a need and it came out of a need to address mental health and it came out of kind of um sorta the shadow of these really unfortunate events and we just decided that something needed to be done,” Braaten said.
Braaten and Ricci want athletes to start thinking about their mental health in the same way they think of their physical health.
“We want people to treat mental health just like they would a physical injury,” Braaten said. “You hurt your ankle you go to the trainer, you get it fixed. When you have a mental health issue, a lot of times you don’t deal with it the same way and we want to end that stigma so more people feel available to go and do that.”
They’re also getting national attention and will attend an NCAA conference focusing on helping athletes live healthier lives in San Diego later this month.
“Our goal is to destigmatize and spread awareness about the epidemic of mental health in collegiate athletics,” Ricci said in a press release. “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.”
There will be information booths set up at the Jan. 28 wrestling meet and the Feb. 2 women’s basketball game.
“We just want to give people help,” Braaten said. “People that are struggling through mental illnesses — that there’s hope. There’s people that care and that everybody’s dam worth it.”