BY JOSEF SAMILENKO
On Sept. 14, Sacred Heart University and its Division I teams began their annual “Heart-to-Heart” campaign. According to the Sacred Heart athletics website, athletes and coaches went up to Campus Field and stood together in the shape of a heart.
Students donned shirts with the campaign’s name written on the front, and they also wore green wristbands. Green is the color for mental health. The “Heart-to-Heart” mission statement says that participants are the unification of female and male student athletes designed to gain awareness for mental health.
The event originally was started by women’s ice hockey alumni Devan Kane in 2017. Kane pushed to provide support and help to student athletes in need.
The campaign will span across six sports teams in the 2018-2019 fall season.
The next team to play their “Heart-to-Heart” game is women’s rugby on Saturday, Sept. 29, when they take on Colby Sawyer College at Park Avenue Field. According to the Sacred Heart athletics website, the athletes will wear “Heart-to-Heart” shirts and green ribbons to raise awareness.
“This game has more significance than other home games because it’s when the Sacred Heart community comes together as one, and not only gets to see us play but gets to also contribute to a great cause,” said sophomore Kaitlin Lagase.
The campaign aims to make the topic of mental health more open and talked about in every day conversations, and Lagase has taken notice.
“Sacred Heart has made a conscious effort to talk more about mental health and bring in resources to help the athletes that need it,” said Lagase.
Sacred Heart offers help for all students. The Wellness Center on campus has an online sign-up for counseling sessions.
Isabel Cuddy, a sophomore from Connecticut, enjoys the presence of this campaign on campus.
“I believe that this campaign has the potential to evoke real change for mental health awareness,” said Cuddy. “The concept of athletes playing in support of mental health, while also feeling the support of fellow faculty and peers, is great.”
The campaign slogan is, “SHUtdown the stigma.” The growing awareness of the issue at hand looks to serve that mission.
Rugby head coach Michelle Reed also has an appreciation for the campaign.
“As we continue to do away with the stigma of mental illness, the mental health of athletes is receiving more attention. This is a positive move as athletes are usually held to higher standards in our society and those pressures can build up resulting in undesirable situations that could have been avoided,” said Reed. “We want anyone to be able to ask for help and to be able to be themselves without ridicule.”
Along with preparing for the game, Reed noted that this event will also be memorable because of their opponent. Colby Sawyer is a first-year program, and Reed sees this as an opportunity to grow the women’s rugby community.
“We love supporting new programs and helping advance the sport of rugby for women,” said Reed. “There is a little fire in one of our student-athletes burning to play this game as she decided to attend SHU instead of Colby Sawyer, so there’s a fun twist to this.”
The team believes this campaign provides opportunities to the entire Sacred Heart community.