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Some Athletes Are Leaving the Field Behind for Their Own Good

April 08, 2022

As more athletes and entertainers share their stories of dealing with depression or anxiety, experts hope this will help normalize seeking help for mental health concerns. Last month, an Ohio State University football player announced he would be retiring from the sport due to mental health challenges and suicidal intentions. Harry Miller, an offensive lineman, posted on Twitter that he had turned to his coaching team to share his depression and suicidal thoughts, and they connected him with mental health care. “This story is a great example of a young person in a position of influence, being open about not only his mental health difficulties, but the steps he took to address them,” said Jennifer Ferrand, PsyD, director of well-being for Hartford Healthcare. “Stories like this normalize help-seeking and can help young people to not feel alone in having mental health difficulties or suicidal ideation.” John Santopietro, MD, Physician-in-Chief, Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network and Senior Vice President, Hartford HealthCare, said he is grateful for the athletes and entertainers that are speaking out and advocating for their mental health. “Now we have to do our job to create a system that will be there for people,” Dr. Santopietro said. “We owe it to them to make sure people can access the care they need.” Dr. Ferrand said it also is important to recognize the coach and OSU staff who acted quickly and compassionately to connect Miller with the help he needed. “It’s all of our jobs to look out for one another, and by talking openly, showing kindness and compassion, and sharing our own stories we can remove the stigma associated with mental illness and help-seeking,” she said. Miller came out with his statement less than two weeks after the suicide of Stanford goalie Katie Meyer, highlighting the struggle many college students and student athletes are facing. For some students, returning to in-person classes and social activities can cause anxiety. Miller shared in his Twitter post that he is a high-achieving engineering student, and rejected the stereotype of his generation being soft or dismissed for being dumb, and said he hoped people would be taken more seriously when sharing mental health concerns. Many people praised him for his openness and shared their own stories or those of their children they had lost to suicide. Miller said he tried to come back to playing with the Buckeyes but still struggled, so he decided retiring was the best choice for him to make. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.