MENDON 一 Superintendent Maureen Cohen and Athletic Director Chris Schmidt share that the Mendon-Upton Regional School District recently hosted the Dual Valley Conference Leadership Retreat, focusing on mental health awareness for student-athletes.
More than 100 students attended the retreat at Nipmuc Regional High School on Aug. 22, representing Nipmuc, Douglas High School, Hopedale High School, Sutton High School, and the Whitinsville Christian School.
The retreat was supported by the Kyle Cares Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting open and honest communication about the mental health challenges teens and young adults face in today’s society. Its goal is to financially assist high schools and colleges with the implementation of mental health awareness and suicide prevention programs to better support their students.
It is named for Kyle Johnson, a teenager from North Attleborough who struggled with mental health issues and made the decision to take his own life.
Jim Johnson, Kyle’s father and President/Co-Founder of Kyle Cares, spoke at the retreat. Johnson also arranged for two speakers from Minding Your Mind. Keynote speaker Andrew Onimus, a former college student-athlete, described how a serious injury led to his depression and suicidal ideation.
Nipmuc is the first high school in Central Massachusetts to partner with the Foundation. The relationship began last year, when the boys lacrosse team held a raffle to support Kyle Cares and to raise awareness of the Foundation and mental health.
Kyle Cares also has provided professional development to the Nipmuc coaching staff. Jon Mattleman, another Minding Your Mind speaker, spoke at the retreat and explained how coaches can support student-athletes who may be suffering from mental health challenges.
Schmidt and the Athletic Department staff hope to start a student chapter of Active Minds at the high school, with students providing peer leadership around mental health awareness. Active Minds is a national leader for young adult mental health advocacy and suicide prevention.
“The retreat was an incredible success. It really opened student-athletes’ eyes and minds to the challenges and difficulties of mental health,” Schmidt said. “Students left feeling they could enact positive change within their communities regarding this growing issue.”
“We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of the Kyle Cares Foundation,” Superintendent Cohen said. “It can be difficult to recognize when a student or friend is struggling. Programs such as the retreat will mean our coaches and students will be more aware, and better prepared to offer the support that is needed.”