Women’s Soccer Spreads Mental Health Awareness Through Wednesday Match vs. Shenandoah
Stevenson women’s soccer marched into Mustang Stadium Wednesday evening to take on out-of-conference Shenandoah. However, they took the field with the purpose to play for something way deeper than the sport itself.
The team played Wednesday’s game to promote and prioritize mental health awareness, specifically for college athletes. Almost everyone wore special shirts saying “You Are Enough” throughout the evening. The idea was originally conceived by sophomore defender Kylie DonBullian, a Chesapeake Beach native who says she struggles with mental health herself.
“I think being a part of such a big team and a big athletic community, just having a focus on such a big thing [in mental health awareness] was really important to me,” DonBullian said. “I know more than probably everyone struggles with mental health. It is a very big thing and I don’t think it is talked about enough.
“I think doing a game dedicated to [mental health awareness] will help spread the message,” DonBullian continued. She also mentioned the “perfect athlete” image, a harmful and pressuring stereotype that columnizes college athletes into being perfect and errorless.
“When it comes down to student-athletes, they are kind of expected to be perfect and on top of everything,” DonBullian said about the stereotype. “I just want it to be clear that it does not always have to be that way.”
Mental health plagues millions of people worldwide. According to Clubhouse International, 1 in 5 people worldwide suffer from a mental disorder. Nearly 90 suicides occur every hour, which calculates to 2,000 people a day and 800,000 a year — 90% of those suicides are linked to mental disorders.
“[Mental health] impacts everyone even though you might not realize it,” said junior forward Mackenzie Grove. “Everyone is struggling in their own way. Sometimes people look okay, and they are not, so it is just [about] really checking up on everyone and making sure if they are okay even if they seem fine.”
“I think mental health needs to be a dinner conversation,” DonBullian said. “I don’t think it should be only something that is talked about when it is in the news. I think it needs to be something that anyone can talk to about.” She added that the less people talk about something, the more terrifying the situation is.
Stevenson women’s soccer certainly knows a thing or two about checking in on each other. The team is committed to staying in contact with each other and checking in on one another.
“Our program value as Stevenson women’s soccer is to check on each other and put each other first,” said junior midfielder Cassidy Butler. “We are family, so our No. 1 job is to take care of each other.”
“I think this year more than ever, we’ve been very open as a team and we’ve learned to be vulnerable with each other,” DonBullian added. She also complimented her coaching staff for allowing the team to be vulnerable, adding that she “needs coaches like that.”
According to Athletes for Hope, 33% of college students have mental health symptoms such as depression or anxiety. Shockingly, 10% of those students are college athletes who do not seek any sort of help. Through spreading mental health awareness, Stevenson women’s soccer wants people to know that it is ok to seek help and talk about things.
“Everyone is loved, everyone is enough,” Grove said. “The biggest thing is that there are people around them who support them and love them.”
“It is not embarrassing or humiliating to reach out,” Butler simply said.
At the game, Stevenson women’s soccer had a table set up inside Mustang Stadium featuring mental health awareness merchandise with all proceeds going to two non-profit organizations: Katie’s Save and Morgan’s Message. DonBullian is a mental health ambassador for Morgan’s Message. Each operates in efforts to spread mental health awareness and in honor of Katie Meyer and Morgan Rodgers respectively. Both collegiate athletes died by suicide due to mental health disorders.
On the field, the team wore wristbands saying “you are enough.” They played in front of a big crowd full of fans, friends, and family that filled the bleachers from end to end. Though a well-fought battle with Shenandoah ended in a 4-2 loss, the loss meant significantly less to what the true meaning of the game was about.
“[Stevenson women’s soccer] is here for everyone,” Butler said. “If people need something or need a helping hand, Stevenson women’s soccer is totally open to helping people.”
Stevenson women’s soccer encourages everyone to continuously check in on each other and make sure the ones they know and love the most are ok. It may only take someone saying “hi, how are you doing?” to make someone’s day.
In the end, by spreading mental health awareness, Stevenson women’s soccer wants others to know that they are loved and thought of, and that they are enough.
“Your story is never over,” DonBullian said. “It does not have to end.”
Students who are experiencing symptoms of mental health and have thoughts of suicide should call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline.