By Kirk Jessome
Following a record-breaking Bell Let’s Talk event where nearly $7 million were raised for mental health research, the Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative with the help of Lawtons, is set to host a Mental Health Matchup to continue to raise awareness and funds for mental health research across the country.
The Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative, or SAMHI, was started in 2014 to help raise awareness for mental health issues in varsity athletes, to help break the stigma behind them, and to create conversation. The program has teams on campuses across the country, including one at Dalhousie that is led by track and field athlete Jenna Silverberg.
Silverberg has been involved since SAMHI first partnered with Dalhousie in 2015, and she has been able to watch the program grow as a result.
“Last year we had eight percent of our student-athletes involved in SAMHI, and now this year we have over forty percent,” says Silverberg. “Our goal is to continue the trend and get as many student-athletes as possible involved.”
One thing that Silverberg believes is holding back participation in the program are some misconceptions about what the group does on campus.
“In the past, athletes have thought that we are a group that holds hands in a circle and sings kumbaya,” laughs Silverberg. “But we want to knock down that idea and show that we are a proactive and preventative group, not just people sharing stories.”
Each year, the group hosts a Mental Health Matchup, at a doubleheader basketball game that is meant to raise awareness, and fundraise for mental health issues across the country. Lawtons Drugs is a proud supporter and matches the funds raised in their donation.
Along with hosting the Mental Health Matchup, the increased numbers of athletes involved in the program has allowed them to branch out and increase their presence in the community. Student-athletes host patients from the IWK and play games and other activities with them. They are also working with the local Ronald McDonald House.
“For us, it’s all about strength in numbers,” says Silverberg. “Hosting a bigger event like this draws more people to support the cause, and the more people we have involved, the more we can do to help.”
This year, the Tigers will host the Acadia Axewomen and Axemen in basketball action on February 17th at the Dalplex in their final regular season home game. Tip off for the women’s game is at 6:00pm, followed by the men at 8:00pm.
If you want to learn more about the SAMHI organization, or to make a charitable donation, visit www.samhi.ca.