Seniors strive to bring awareness to athlete mental health in community


Submitted Sean Bevan

The Athletic Soul, created and led by Sara Medina and Sadie Candela, organized an event regarding supporting athletes’ mental health with Dr. Kim O’Brien and student panelists.

Sania Hasan, Staff Writer

To raise awareness of mental health struggles and improve access to resources for athletes in the community, seniors Sara Medina and Sadie Candela formed and lead The Athletic Soul.

The Athletic Soul is a student-run organization that seeks to support athletes by providing programs in the community with mental health resources, implementing new procedures and performing and distributing research on athlete mental health. Medina began the project last spring, after hearing about tragedies in athletics.

“There were a couple of tragedies that happened at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) level in athletics due to poor mental health, so I was inspired by that and saw that it was a problem since there wasn’t a lot of light being brought to it and there wasn’t a lot of research on it either,” Medina said. “I wanted to do something in our local community to help make a change for that.”

Medina asked Candela this past summer to join the project to help plan events and fundraisers. With her own experience as an athlete, Candela agreed to join.

“I’ve played sports my whole life and through sports I’ve had some mental health issues as well, and I know that it’s really common,” Candela said. “We wanted to raise awareness on this issue because it’s close to home for both of us.”

Medina and Candela believe that athletes struggle with mental health for a variety of reasons. Participating in athletics is a big time commitment and comes with a lot of performance pressure, but there are many ways to deal with this pressure.

“A lot of times [dealing with performance pressure] can just be understanding how you’re feeling and being able to step back and find things that work for you,” Medina said. “It could be meditation or just listening to music before you have a game or a competition.”

The Athletic Soul has been working to support athlete mental health in various ways, such as organizing fundraisers and events, and conducting surveys about mental health for athletes in the area. In February, they organized an event, Supporting Athlete Mental Health: A Team Effort, at Algonquin to raise awareness about athlete mental health in high school.

“For the event at Algonquin we had a guest speaker but there was also a student panel, and I think that was really helpful because you heard from your peers about [athlete mental health],” Medina said.

Candela believes that knowing that others are also struggling with mental health can make individuals feel less alone.

“I think at Algonquin specifically [the event] raised awareness that not everyone is doing okay in their sports and there’s times where everyone is struggling, no matter what your sport is or what your role is on a team,” Candela said.

Health and fitness teacher Kristen Morcone was involved in advising the event, and takes pride in the work Medina and Candela have done.

“I’m just so proud of Sara and Sadie for starting this initiative to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in student athletes,” Morcone said. “They both want the best for their peers and I think that’s a huge reason why they brought this program to Algonquin; they just want to raise awareness for all the students at Algonquin.”

Morcone also believes that mental health should be taken seriously and be prioritized.

“[Mental health] is a huge part of who we are and what shapes our actions,” Morcone said. “It’s just really important that we put priority into our mental health.”

Candela also emphasizes the importance of communication for one’s own mental health.

“I think talking to teammates and communicating with your coaches and others who are around you can help [deal with performance pressure],” Candela said. 

Students can access mental health resources on their website, and can also follow them on instagram @the.athletic.soul. 

In the future, Medina hopes for the event at Algonquin to be repeated every year, and wants to do a larger fundraising event in the summer. She also hopes to bring this project to the college level.

“[At the college level] there’s a high level of commitment,” Medina said. “On top of what degree you’re pursuing, it can be a lot.”

Candela stresses the importance of taking one’s mental health seriously and recognizes that  issues with mental health come in different forms for different people.

“[Mental health] can look different for everyone, and I think that’s a huge part of it and why it’s kind of hard to recognize sometimes,” Candela said. “At the end of the day, you and your mental health come before sports performance.”