Patriot League and Ivy League Host Mental Health Summit to Kickstart New Academic Year – Patriot League Official Athletic Site Express News

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. – Over the past few years, the NCAA has taken strides to prioritize the mental health of its student-athletes. The Patriot League and Ivy League voiced their support in this movement, hosting the 2019 Mental Health Summit before the 2019-2020 academic year on the campus of Princeton University.

“Our focus as administrators is being responsive to the needs of our student-athletes,” Patriot League Commissioner Jennifer Heppel said. “Due to the shared experiences of the student-athletes in the Patriot and Ivy Leagues, we were able to elevate the conversation of mental health through collaboration. I’d like to thank the SAAC representatives from both Leagues for recognizing and prioritizing the wide-ranging issue of mental health and leading the on-going discussion that we hope will help erase the stigma surrounding its diagnosis and treatment.”

The day was highlighted by keynote speaker Taylor Ricci, a former All-American gymnast from Oregon State University, who spoke of the ongoing battle with mental illness that college athletes face. Institutions such as Oregon State University provide rigorous expectations for student-athletes and how athletes who struggle with mental health are often perceived as weak. After fighting through her own battle with alopecia throughout her time at Oregon State, Ricci was provided with a new perspective on how challenging the life of a student-athlete truly can be.

The crux of Ricci’s presentation revolved around her campaign she created with another former Oregon State student-athlete, called “Dam Worth It”. This campaign took shape after a former Oregon State gymnast, and teammate of Ricci’s, and a men’s soccer student-athlete who took their own lives after struggles with depression. “Dam Worth It” works to provide student-athletes with an outlet to their demanding lifestyles athletically and academically and bring about awareness of mental illnesses in order to end the stigma surrounding mental health among college athletes.

Dr. Jessica Mohler from the United States Naval Academy and Dr. Jonathan Pastor from Princeton University worked together to show support staff how to better prepare themselves to aid their student-athletes. Dr. Mohler and Dr. Pastor examined certain behaviors exhibited by athletes who are suffering from depression or anxiety and provided their peers with the proper resources and tactics to combat those behaviors. Overall, citing data about how detrimental depression and anxiety can be to student-athletes provided insight into the daily battle that collegiate athletes endure.

Following was a student panel comprised of former and current Patriot League and Ivy League student-athletes who spoke to their experiences with enduring the stressors of life as a collegiate student-athlete. These athletes admitted that when the pressure appears insurmountable that having resources on campus are vital to an athlete remaining successful on and off of the field.

The Summit concluded with Dr. Marissa Nichols, from Boston University, leading a discussion which required the audience to jot down what they believe was most important to them from the Mental Health Summit. Dr. Nichols is the Director of leadership and career development at Boston University and develops strong life skills for current student-athletes. The audience took part in this final exercise by sharing their own personal interactions with aiding student-athletes and collecting ways in which each institution can benefit from the Mental Health Summit.

“This is a tremendous step for the Patriot League and the Ivy League to create a space for student-athletes and their institutions to share their personal stories and discover ways to continue serving student-athletes” Dr. Marissa Nichols, Boston University said. “Our schools understand that in order to make a difference for their student-athletes, we (administrators, clinicians, student-athlete development professionals, student-athletes) all need to be at the same table synergizing our efforts because nothing will get done in isolation.”

All Patriot League and Ivy League institutions were represented at the Summit and each institution departed with some incredible pieces that will only assist in the growth of their student-athletes. 


The Patriot League is in its third decade of academic and athletic achievement, continually demonstrating that student-athletes can excel at both academics and athletics without sacrificing high standards. The Patriot League’s athletic success is achieved while its member institutions remain committed to its founding principle of admitting and graduating student-athletes that are academically representative of their class. Participation in athletics at Patriot League institutions is viewed as an important component of a well-rounded education.



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