Providence Student Leads Mental Health Initiative

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Providence Catholic student Kailee O’Sullivan has a goal this year: Promote mental health among athletes. To do this, she is working closely with Morgan’s Message.

“This organization was really made to break the negative stigma around mental health,” said Kailee. “The organization got its name from a Duke lacrosse player named Morgan, who had the ‘ideal’ life for most. She played Division 1 lacrosse, had a loving family, was smart, beautiful, creative, funny, and so much more.

“Morgan dealt with mental health before and had received help. She then had a very bad injury that would end up postponing her lacrosse season. Even while speaking to her parents and peers, she never opened up much about how she was feeling during this time. Morgan had written in her journal that no one could understand how she felt. She chose to stay silent and sadly committed suicide.”

“While working with Morgan’s Message, I have started a club that has been having interactive meetings with whoever would like to attend,” Kailee stated. “We are just starting, but Providence coaches are working with me to encourage student-athletes to attend meetings when needed. My goal is to help people know they aren’t alone. If I can help at least one person get through a tough time, that’s enough for me.”

This initiative is important to Kailee because she related to Morgan’s story. “So much,” she noted, “I went through a bad injury on my pitching hand and had to have three surgeries. That was definitely one of the roughest patches of my life. Everything I did was related to softball, and it was taken from me in seconds. There was nothing I could do about it.”

The devastation when she could barely move at physical therapy consumed her to the point of Kailee not being able to watch any softball videos without breaking down.

“I felt like people just didn’t get it and never would. If I didn’t have the great support system and outlets I had, things might be a lot different now,” she continued. “I found outlets other than just softball and learned that everything happens for a reason. Though it felt like my life was over, if I hadn’t gotten hurt, I never would have found my current team, which I love – the Lady Dukes. I never would have met the amazing people I have. I never would have developed the great work ethic I now have, and I never would have learned the valuable lesson to never take anything for granted.”

Based on her personal experience, Kailee wants everyone to really understand that everything happens for a reason, and your story isn’t over yet. “I promise, you aren’t alone,” she remarked.

Kailee said, in her opinion, the pressure athletes face today is different from the pressure athletes faced before. “Now things might be looked at as more serious,” she added. “Schooling is harder, which makes it harder to balance a schedule. On top of that, people are going to want some kind of social life, which might make it even harder to balance a schedule. Many are competing at the highest level in their sport, so everything they have is given to that sport – time, money, experiences, etc. Although being a student-athlete can be demanding, if you find the right schedule, it will be so worth it.”

It wasn’t an easy beginning, however, as Kailee was nervous to get the club started. She wasn’t sure what the feedback would be like, or how people would react to her story. It was Jeremiah Jobe and Huda Hamdan of the Providence Catholic Counseling Department who worked with Kailee on getting everything started.

“Coach Jobe and Ms. Hamdan inspired me to share my story, and they have supported me through every step of this process. Without them, none of this would be possible,” she commented.

As to her goals for the future?

“My goals are to help people go and talk to someone, whether they are an athlete or not. Mental health is real and so, so important. I want people to know that what they are going through is okay and not something to be ashamed of.”

Another goal is to help people remember everyone is going through a struggle of their own, whether they seem perfect or not.

“A rule everyone should keep in mind is the Golden Rule, ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated’,” she commented. “This is a basic lesson many of us learned at a young age but is so often overlooked. If you could make that slight effort to treat someone the way you’d like to be treated, you might just make that person’s day 10 times better.”

The goal of Morgan’s Message is to “amplify stories, resources, and expertise to confront student-athlete mental health, build a community by and for athletes, facilitate safe peer-to-peer conversations, and provide a platform for advocacy.” More information is available at https://www.morgansmessage.org/.


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