CPHHS student Taylor Ricci part of mental health initiative to raise awareness

#DamWorthIt Campaign shines light on mental health crises in collegiate athletics and society

Taylor Ricci

Photo by Dave Nishitani

The hours of practice, the travel schedules, the stress of competing against some of the world’s best athletes, and the everyday pressures of being a college student – the physical and psychological demands are intense for the young men and women who represent Oregon State Athletics in such a visible atmosphere.

The experiences of former Oregon State standout gymnast Taylor Ricci and current men’s soccer member Nathan Braaten have led them to spearhead conversation around those demands through a mental health awareness initiative – #DamWorthIt.

“Our goal is to destigmatize and spread awareness about the epidemic of mental health in collegiate athletics,” Taylor, a Kinesiology major, says. “The stresses of performing at a high level both academically and athletically are intense, and can lead to severe depression and in some cases suicide, as we tragically learned at Washington State this week and recently on the OSU campus.”

Fans who enter the Gill Coliseum lobby tonight will notice two booths staffed by student-athletes and by OSU’s nationally recognized Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff. In addition, the #DamWorthIt Campaign will have a significant presence through OSU Athletics and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee social media platforms, and during live events on campus.

“We feel this is a unique approach to mental health awareness as it’s a platform for student-athletes that is being coordinated by their peers,” Nathan, a finance and economics, major, says. “In addition, it’s a chance for individuals to understand resources are available for people of all walks of life to gain assistance.”

Studies have shown that the physical and psychological demands on student-athletes lead to depression-like symptoms that by percentage are far higher than the median age group comparison. A recent survey by Psychology Today concluded that 6.3 percent of student-athletes met the criteria for clinically significant depression while a staggering 24 percent were considered “clinically relevant.”  Female student-athletes were almost twice as likely to show symptoms of depression as opposed to their male counterparts.

The #DamWorthIt Campaign has already received national attention as both Taylor and Nathan have been selected to attend the NCAA APPLE Conference later this month in San Diego. The conference is an annual three-day national training institute for student-athletes, athletics administrators and campus partners dedicated to substance abuse prevention and health promotion of student-athletes.

In addition to tonight, the #DamWorthIt Campaign will have a presence at the Jan. 28 wrestling meet vs. Northern Colorado, the Feb. 2 women’s basketball game vs. Stanford and the Feb. 17 gymnastics meet vs. Arizona.

For more information on mental health resources:
Oregon State CAPS Website
NCAA Sports Science Institute Mental Health Website