The team connected with Paws For Patrick (PFP), a mental health organization founded by a member of their team, junior Marley Heitman, and her family.
Heitman and her family founded the organization PFP in memory of her cousin Patrick Roemer, whose life was tragically taken by mental illness in 2020. PFP is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to connecting young people with emotional support animals and therapy dogs as they live with mental illness.
“I was feeling really nervous and anxious about this game,” Heitman said. “I didn’t know how it would turn out and if people would support suicide prevention and Paws for Patrick.”
Before the game started, DePauw fans filled the stands, supporting the team and showing their passion for mental health awareness. Some fans wore green shirts in support of mental health awareness and PFP’s mission.
“It was the most amazing turnout and so much awareness was spread,” Heitman said.
The impact of the game didn’t stop with Heitman. The whole team felt the power of playing for something more than just their team.
“We lifted each other up,” first-year Maggie Volpe, a member of the field hockey team, said. “We knew we were playing for something so special.”
“I’m so thankful that DePauw gave me this opportunity to dedicate one of the field hockey games to mental health awareness,” Heitman said.
Volpe felt motivated to work harder and play for those who are suffering.
“Playing in the mental health awareness game, especially with it being partnered with Paws for Patrick, which is something near and dear to my heart, was incredible,” Volpe said.
As mental health awareness has grown in recent years, there has been an abundance of additional resources created for DePauw students who need assistance with their mental health.
DePauw created a specialized mental health committee on the executive board of the DePauw Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Executive board member and soccer team representative Alexa Hourdas also has a passion for DePauw students’ mental health, especially athletes.
“I wanted to not only become involved in advocating for athletes’ mental health, but also have a stronger role in it because of how important it is,” Hourdas said. “Athletes are perceived as tough individuals and they often get pushed past their limits mentally and physically. It is hard to be a college student, especially a student-athlete and I wanted to become someone other athletes could reach out to, get resources from, and relate to.”
The Paws For Patrick x Mental Health Awareness game sent a message across the University that, as a community, we value our mental health and well-being.
“I think it would be awesome if all sports teams participated in a game like this,” Volpe said. “Mental health can be a sensitive subject and hard to address, but as student-athletes, we have a lot on our plates.”
“You are not alone and mental health is so important and we need to recognize that it's okay not to be okay,” Heitman said. ”There are tons of resources on campus for suicide prevention and mental health and I want everyone to know that there are always people there for you.”
Continuing the message that DePauw women's field hockey spread, other teams followed in their footsteps.
On Sunday, Sept. 12, the DePauw women's soccer team played a game in memory of Katie Mayer, a goalie on the Stanford women's soccer team who committed suicide.
“I think that it is always important for student-athletes to be reminded of the resources and methods they can use toward mental health,” Witney Freeman, a junior member of the women's soccer team, said. “Any sport is not only a physical battle, but a mental one as well.”
As October comes to an end, mental health awareness doesn't have to. Mental health is something that can be cared for every day.
For more information, you can visit DePauw counseling services or online at https://www.depauw.edu/campus-life/wellness/counseling-services/ .