Change and progress come slowly. Often too slowly. The much-needed conversation about challenges with mental health, and depression particularly among athletes is happening with greater frequency. Recently NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love both opened up about their battles with anxiety and depression, further bringing the conversation into prominence and helping to reduce stigmas. Tragically, these conversations came too late to save the life of Brian Dagle, but through the efforts of The Brian Dagle Foundation the conversations are expanding to the high school lacrosse fields in Connecticut.
On April 10 Waterford High School hosted Old Lyme High School in a boys lacrosse game. The game was one of five Lax2Live events sponsored by the Dagle Foundation that will be held in conjunction with high school boys lacrosse contests this year. The goal of Lax2Life is to use the Lacrosse Field as a platform to begin the difficult conversation about mental illness and suicide.
“This is our second year hosting and being part of such an important issue of suicide awareness and mental health,” Waterford coach Chris Landry explained. “It is so important to let our students know that it is okay to talk about it and that there are people to talk to and talk through their issues.”
Players who took part in the game were asked to complete a brief anonymous survey both before and after the game with questions regarding mental health awareness and resources. A booth with information from the Dagle Foundation was present at the game providing information and resources, and money from the game’s 50/50 raffle was donated to the Foundation. In addition an announcement about the program was read prior to the start of the junior varsity and varsity games.
Perhaps most impactful element of the program came when the players heard directly from the organization’s Vice President Paul Dagle following the game. He shared the message reminding players “to keep an eye out for each other both on and off the field.”
Awareness and conversation are the tools that hopefully keep this group of high school student-athletes from the same tragedy that launched the Dagle Foundation. Perhaps none of the players gathered on the field to hear the message are suffering from the same challenges that Brian Dagle faced. Brian loved playing lacrosse, which he did for East Lyme High School, yet he like many other athletes struggled with depression, anxiety and hopelessness. He died by suicide in November of 2011.
Change and progress come slowly. They can start with a conversation or information collected on a lacrosse field that maybe saves the life of a student-athlete who was suffering in silence. Or they can come as the students on the field or the fans in the stands take that message to their schools and their friends bringing it to someone who needed to hear it.
That’s how things get better and progress on these challenging and scary issues of mental health get made. One day, one game, one conversation at a time.
For more information on the Dagle Foundation or the Lax2Live events please go to: http://brianshealinghearts.org