Sycamore Softball Program Hosting Mental Health Clinics – Shaw Local

After a string of athlete suicides rocked college athletics, Sycamore Girls Softball executives decided something had to be done to help its players.

Board member Nate Johnson went to President Erica Snodgrass with the idea of ​​a clinic to help players on the program’s traveling teams, the Sycamore Sycos, deal with mental health issues.

With the help of Emily Dienst, manager of outpatient therapy services at Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health and financial support from the DeKalb County Mental Health Board, the Sports Mind and Body Clinic is becoming a reality on Monday.

“We wanted to know what we could do,” Snodgrass said. “There must be something we can do, even at a young age. Our girls will hopefully become collegiate athletes, maybe not DI athletes. … We hope to turn these young women into students, hopefully into student-athletes.”

There have been at least five suicides among NCAA athletes since March, and at least three of them were female athletes. Snodgrass said the death of James Madison softball player Lauren Bernett — a day after she was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Player of the Week — really shook up the sport, Snodgrass said.

After hearing about Bernett’s death, Johnson went to Snodgrass with the idea and contacted Northwestern Medicine in hopes of opening a clinic.

“In order to do our part, we were going to put something in place to help our athletes with the tough summer ahead,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, a lot of things going on. We wanted to give them skills and coping mechanisms to help them cope with the high pressure situations that arise.

There will be a pair of clinics for all Sycos travel program teams. They also oversee the city’s recreational league softball. The first for younger teams is Monday at the Sycamore Rec Center, with older teams departing June 20.

Dienst said the clinics will focus on different dimensions of health to help the athlete as a whole.

“How can we focus on your mental health? Your social health? Your physical health? Your intellectual health? Dienst said. “We hope to incorporate guided imagery so that someone can feel more focused, more balanced, more centered both on and off the pitch.”

Dienst said the clinics will focus on neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt, and in this case, how to deal with strong emotions, or how to learn to adapt to how they cope. .

“What our brain is right now doesn’t necessarily mean what it has to be forever,” Dienst said. “We don’t have to feel and think the same way forever. … What can we change in the way we think or feel good in the future? »

Dienst called the clinics a pilot program and hopes they can expand beyond just the Sycamore Travel Team. She also contacted the DeKalb County Mental Health Board about it.

“They’re very strongly advocating for this kind of pilot program to see how it goes and maybe where we go from here to make sure we’re connecting with our community,” Dienst said. “As therapists… part of our job is to be proactive and reach out to the community to see how many people we can reach with these different strategies.”

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