Anasthasia Shilov, Illustrations Editor

As part of the YUMatter initiative, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s wellness subcommittee plans to produce a video promoting mental health later this semester. 

The video will be overseen and led by women’s sailing team member and current chair of SAAC’s wellness subcommittee Helena Ware ’23. The video is a part of the larger YUMatter campaign, which, according to a press release, aims “to promote student-athlete mental wellness while creating an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding of mental health.”

“Part of the overall goal is to have some sort of peoples’ stories that are attached to YUMatter that will help explain why [the initiative] has been created and why it’s needed,” Ware said.

The video, which hopes to bring into view the universal nature of mental health struggles, will feature testimonials from multiple student-athletes on their experiences, according to Ware.

Ware told the News that there is a tendency, both in athletics and throughout the University, for those in authority to assume that mental health is a distant problem and does not affect anyone in their circle. She hopes this video will address that tendency by putting mental health issues and students’ needs in the spotlight.

Hannah Johns ’23, current SAAC president and rower on the women’s crew team, pointed out that student-athletes at Yale face particular pressures, where they have to balance the dual weight of Division I athletics with an Ivy League academic workload. Johns, who also served as chair of the wellness subcommittee when YUMatter was originally conceived back in the summer of 2019, plans to speak in the video about her own experience with mental health, when she suffered from insomnia during her first year at Yale.

The message is also particularly relevant given the COVID-19 pandemic, Johns said.

“COVID has disrupted a lot of things that we find peace and comfort in … and for a lot of people that’s their sport,” Johns said. “A lot of student-athletes spent years and years and years relying on their sport for consistency, kindness, grace, all the things you would find in a passion.”

The idea for the video sparked last semester, in response to the ongoing pandemic. With many normal means of interaction shut down, the wellness subcommittee had to look for new ways to communicate with the student-athlete population. As Ware pointed out, there are upsides to the video format, specifically its lasting nature as a potential resource for future classes.

The initiative launched in October of last year and has worked with the Good Life Center and Yale Mental Health and Counseling to support student-athletes.

YUMatter looks to imitate similar efforts at other schools, like the Dam Worth It campaign at Oregon State University, which was founded by students after multiple suicides among student-athletes. The Dam Worth It program also inspired the idea of personal testimonials, which will make up the heart of the YUMatter video.

Ware said that the goal is to release the video sometime during the current semester, but the final timeline is still uncertain due to both the unconventional nature of this semester and the fact that the Yale Athletic Department will have to approve the final video. The project is currently seeking student-athletes’ testimonials, and Ware requested that anyone interested should reach out to her.

There are currently over 900 student-athletes at Yale.

Bradley Nowacek | bradley.nowacek@yale.edu

BRADLEY NOWACEK