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Recent suicides spotlight the struggles student-athletes face

Since March, three student-athletes have taken their own lives.
Since March, three student-athletes have taken their own lives.
Published: May. 1, 2022 at 9:45 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The discussion surrounding mental health has become more prevalent on college campuses, after three prominent student-athletes died by suicide.

On March 1, Katie Meyer, captain of the Stanford women’s soccer team was found dead in her dorm room.

On April 13, University of Wisconsin-Madison cross country and track and field athlete Sarah Shulze passed unexpectedly.

Just 13 days after Sarah’s passing, James Madison University softball player Lauren Bernett died a day after she was named the Colonial Athletic Association Conference Player of the Week.

Their deaths have prompted student-athletes across the country to come forward and share their own struggles with mental health.

UW softball player Tessa Magnanimo said in a statement on Twitter, “As student athletes we are under so much pressure. Whether it’s balancing our grueling schedules with academics or just always being in performance mode. With the recent tragedies in the athletic community, I felt like my story could help people, or take the stigma away from the struggle.”

Badger women’s hockey player Kennedy Blair said there was a time during the season that she had to step away and take a few days due to her mental health.

As other student-athletes come forward with their own stories, UNCUT Madison, a student-led and athlete-driven non-profit, is inviting the Madison community to gather for an open discussion about mental health.

The event, “Tackle the Stigma” is a mental-health panel featuring current and former Badger athletes. UW soccer player Emma Jaskaniec will be on the panel joined by former Badger running back Montee Ball, former UW linebacker Chris Borland and Former UW Director of Sports and Clinical Psychology, Dr. Kris Eiring.

The event will take place Tuesday, May 3 at Union South and all ticket sales will benefit the Sarah Shulze foundation.

Head of Operations for UNCUT Madison, Olivia Hancock, brought the non-profit to UW’s campus a little over a year ago, and said mental health has been the topic that their audience tends to gravitate to.

UNCUT Madison will host, "Tackle the Stigma" a conversation about mental health and sports on...
UNCUT Madison will host, "Tackle the Stigma" a conversation about mental health and sports on Tuesday, May 3.(UNCUT Madison)

Jaskaniec said as a student-athlete, there’s constant pressure to perform not just on the field, but in the classroom.

“If I don’t perform in my sport I’m like oh people won’t like me as much? Which isn’t true at all but your mind tricks you into thinking that,” Jaskaniec said.

UNCUT Madison wants to remind student-athletes that they are not alone in their struggles and start to normalize discussing mental health.

UW football player Maema Njongmeta will be hosting the event and said while he’s grateful to be a student-athlete, there’s a lot that comes with the responsibility that most people don’t see.

“This is a stigma that’s been around for so long it’s not going to change overnight or even in a decade,” Njongmeta said. “But the work UNCUT is doing, and the work people are doing nationally and internationally to de-stigmatize that topic of conversation, I think that’s steps in the right direction.”

If you or someone you know are in crisis, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. You can also text HELLO to 741741.

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