KU Student-Athletes Raise Awareness of Mental Health with Three-Day “Beak The Stigma” Event

LAWRENCE, Kan. — One out of every four college students experience struggles related to mental health. The student-athletes at the University of Kansas are working together to raise awareness and decrease the stigma around asking for help.

KU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) will observe Mental Health Awareness Month with a three-day event, May 6-8, just prior to final exams week. “Beak The Stigma,” as the event is called, is the student-athletes’ attempt to accept, support and encourage each other on and off the field.

“Mental health is the Number One health priority identified by student-athletes in all three divisions,” said Kristie Baumchen, Student-Athlete Wellness Coordinator at Kansas Athletics. “Part of what makes athletes so successful at this level – their drive, competitiveness and ability to persevere – is also a big part of why some find it difficult to seek help.

“Student-athletes endure all kinds of expectations and time demands,” Baumchen continued. “When they struggle to balance all the demands, they think reaching out and asking for help makes them less tough or vulnerable. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

At the three-day event, KU’s SAAC will have a desk set up in the Wagnon Student-Athlete Center, where they will share information about mental-health topics such as stress management, anxiety and depression. They will also share information on where at Kansas Athletics they can seek help, and discuss strategies they can use to cope during high-stress times – like finals week.

“We want to show our fellow student-athletes that it’s OK not to be OK,” said Hannah Driscoll, KU’s SAAC President and member of the KU women’s track and field team. “We don’t have to go it alone. Seeking help shows strength, not weakness. We can’t be afraid to communicate about these issues. We know we are better together, and together we will Beak The Stigma.”