Sports stars turn out to promote mental health

With one in five adults living with a mental health condition and the rates of youth with depression rapidly increasing, top leaders from across sports, healthcare and social change sectors spent the day immersed in progressive solutions to combat one of society’s most prevalent issues. Organized by leading sport for social change pioneer, Beyond Sport, in partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance), Centerstone,Citrone 33 Foundation and USA Cycling and Beyond Sport’s US major league

Founding Supporters–MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, WNBA – the Stay in the Game Forum featured educational panels from leading experts, interactive roundtables, inspirational first-person stories from star athletes and the formation of the Stay in the Game Network (The Network). The Network will serve as a year-round platform that will leverage sport to help change the national conversation on mental health and wellness for the better.

“Pressure builds in silence when you allow it," offered Brian Dawkins, NFL Hall of Famer and Founder, Brian Dawkins Impact Foundation. "Collaborative forums like Stay in the Game are what we need to do going forward, and make sure to take the discussions out of the room. We need to challenge ourselves to think outside the box and figure out the actionable things we can do with the expertise of partners we have. I refuse to settle. Our cerebral wellness is worth it.”

Key elements of the day included:

Dawkins discussed his own personal journey to mental well being, and how that sparked his passion to help others live their best lives. Currently, Dawkins is working on launching a new charity effort, the Brian Dawkins Impact Foundation. This organization will provide resources and hope for young people, single mothers and communities facing adversity similar to those he encountered growing up. The first program will launch in Jacksonville, with plans to expand to Clemson and Philadelphia.

Inspirational athlete panel featuring Nate Boyer, Jessica Howard and Corey Hirsch, where each athlete shared his/her own experience to inspire attendees on what’s needed to best address the obstacles to promoting mental wellness and to positively affect the largest number of young people and adults possible.

Researcher, league and team case studies featuring national and international best practice examples of how sport has been used to address mental health were shared to help drive thinking around development of the Network.

After a morning of interactive exploration, insights from across the diverse sectors and impactful conversation, Beyond Sport Founder and President Nick Keller led representatives of The Network’s founding member organizations -- Colleen Carr(Action Alliance), Becky Stoll (Centerstone), Cindy Citrone (Citrone Thirty-Three Foundation) and Scott Schnitzspahn (USA Cycling) -- in a robust discussion on gaps brought to the forefront during the breakout discussions where attendees identified areas where sport could better maximize its ability to drive collective impact, challenging everyone in the room to work together for solutions. The collective discussions during the Stay in the Game Forum resulted in the following action plan for The Network:

The need for expedited analysis of challenges impacting the issue of mental wellness in sport with corresponding solutions. The Network is taking this on as the first plan of action with a report on the findings to come.

A thorough mapping of how sport is being used to promote and address mental health across the country, potentially identifying focus areas as test markets.

Immediate and consistent sharing of best practices in how sport is being used to promote and address mental health – both within an organization and for the general public.

Development of a toolkit of resources that leverages the expertise of all Network members to provide support to any organization hoping to better address mental health through sport.