Through the #NESCACares Mental Health Awareness Week campaign, the Bowdoin Student Athlete Advisory Committee (BSAAC) and the NESCAC Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) are changing the narrative on mental health in athletics.
The Mental Health Awareness Week campaign has happened in previous years, but with the pandemic and a shortened semester presenting unique mental health challenges, the SAAC and BSAAC are hoping to play an especially important role with their programming this year.
“We spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas, themes, a kind of collective campaign … and we slowly put those into motion. It’s been a month and a half of work,” Owen Wolfson ’22, a leader of the BSAAC and a member of the men’s soccer team, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I believe we did a mini-week last year, but … it was right up against spring break and COVID[-19]. I don’t think it was as robust as it is this year.”
The idea to run the program again this year originated at an SAAC meeting in February and took off from there, with all of the schools in the NESCAC participating this past week.
In the past, the program has focused more on educating student athletes about the symptoms of mental health conditions, but Wolfson highlighted the problems with conducting the programming in that manner.
“At the end of the day, we are college kids, and while a lot of us have experience with this topic, we don’t have professional experience,” said Wolfson. “We don’t have credentials … so we found the line to be very delicate in [terms of] how we go about providing programming that does a great job of starting these conversations without over-engaging it. .”
Wolfson explained that the BSAAC worked with Counseling Services to develop resources for the program, which program began on Monday, March 29 and will run through this coming Saturday, April 3. The BSAAC is making an effort to ensure that the materials they provide are engaging and helpful.
“We are providing resources and mechanisms to spark the conversation on teams and within teammates and friends,” Wolfson said.
Because of limits on in-person programming, most of the events were held through the BSAAC’s social media accounts, and each day had a specific theme. Monday was about inspirations, Tuesday was about de-stressing, Wednesday was about self-positive affirmations and Thursday and Friday were dedicated to starting conversations within teams.
“We are using social media a lot because virtual forms are necessary, but then we’re also trying to have multiple ways [of reaching people],” Wolfson said.