Due to the impact of COVID-19, the conference and SAAC saw a need to take this initiative to the next level.
As part of that effort, the conference recently debuted #AEConnects, a social media engagement initiative that aims to educate, engage and entertain during this time of uncertainty to help fill the void without athletic events. In addition to #AEConnects, the conference also continued its campaign, #AEVoices, recognizing the importance of connecting mental health discussion as student-athletes and as people.
The America East SAAC chose to view this time as an opportunity to advocate for mental wellness from a wholistic-person standpoint, finding positivity and virtual connection in a time of extreme adversity.
Through the #BetterTo9ether-Beyond Sport campaign, America East Conference student-athletes took to social media to demonstrate how they are prioritizing their self-care and mental health while collegiate athletics is on hold. Soon, student-athletes were showcasing their unique identities and hobbies and nominating peers, effectively discussing mental health and building connections. Two Vermont student-athletes created “Flatten the Curve,”a clothing-brand and virtual run-a-thon, and have successfully connected over 500 participants to join their movement.
From #AEConnects, current student-athletes, alumni, coaches, and administrators have come together to create connection. The America East Conference continues to provide members of the conference a platform to share their mental health story through #AEVoices. At Vermont and the America East Conference, we know we are #BetterTo9ether. We know that grit, perseverance and, most importantly, discussion and connection, is a vital component of mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique circumstances, and those circumstances have been met with unique efforts. The leaders at Vermont, the America East Conference and its member universities recognize the vital need to continue prioritizing mental health and that breaking the stigma starts with discussion and connection.
Knowing you are not alone in your struggle and that it is OK to feel and discuss however you are feeling is essential for student-athletes as athletes and as people.