Across Canada, university student bodies have made efforts to destigmatize mental health by openly talking about it. Mount Allison is no exception.
Last week, an intimate group of Mt. A athletes gathered in a quiet Avard-Dixon room to discuss key issues surrounding mental health for students balancing school with demanding athletic schedules.
The student-run executive team for the Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) this year is made up of four student athletes: Heather Richards is the treasurer, Mike Cormier is responsible for communications, and Kathleen Morrison and Elizabeth Baker are the co-leads. These four individuals are working together towards ending the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly in student athletes.
SAMHI, an initiative with a presence in universities across the country, was brought to Mt. A by a former mental health educator as well as Pierre Arsenault, the director of athletics and recreation.
According to the SAMHI website, “SAMHI works to educate Canadians about the vulnerabilities of student athletes. We aim promote the mental well-being of all student athletes. And we work to support those struggling with a mental health concern or illness.”
Cormier, who is a goalkeeper for the Mounties soccer team, hopes that the group will have a large impact on Mounties athletes and offer help to those who need it. “Our team got up and running in the winter term of last academic year. Our primary goal then was to lay the groundwork for this year, where we are hoping to really expand our presence on campus,” he said.
“The benefit to having a group like SAMHI on campus is that it is an organization for athletes, by athletes,” Cormier added. “Mental illness is heavily stigmatized, and the stigma surrounding mental illness in athletes is immense. SAMHI’s mission is to eliminate mental illness stigma in post-secondary sport and facilitate access to the resources needed to maintain and improve mental health.”
Baker, a badminton player and defense for Mounties soccer, said she hopes that SAMHI will promote an open dialogue about mental health, as well as create support for athletes at Mt. A. “This initiative creates a liaison between student athletes, the athletic department and mental health resources on campus. We provide support, education and mental health awareness to all of our student athletes. SAMHI members are allies and champions of mental health,” she said.
“It lets [student athletes] know we are aware of the unique challenges student athletes face with regards to mental health, and we are focused on improving the overall student athlete experience,” she said.
Morrison, a forward for Mounties basketball, hopes that this initiative will have a positive impact across campus. Ultimately, she has high hopes that SAMHI will encourage athletes to seek help in order to improve their overall wellbeing. “This initiative aims to raise awareness for the importance of athletes’ mental health and provide resources for student athletes and coaches at Mount Allison,” said Morrison. “We have a group of passionate athletes working towards the goal of ending the stigma surrounding mental illness in general and in sport, and bettering this needed conversation across campus.”
“This initiative is a powerful tool to keep the conversation going about mental health all year long, especially in a department [like athletics] where this topic sometimes gets forgotten or is not acknowledged enough,” Baker said.
To stay up to date with SAMHI on campus, take a look at the official Instagram page, @samhi_mounties.