'We hope that we can really show people that it's OK to not be OK'

A local group of student-athletes want to stomp out the stigma surrounding mental health, and they are speaking out on the importance of seeing out counseling and support in dealing with some issues like depression and anxiety. (SBG).

EUGENE, Ore. - A local group of student-athletes want to stomp out the stigma surrounding mental health, and they are speaking out on the importance of seeing out counseling and support in dealing with some issues like depression and anxiety.

The campaign is called "Duck the Stigma," and through it, student athletes at the U of O are trying to normalize mental health conversations by sharing their own experiences.

Division 1 athletes are some of the most skilled in the country, but some have battled hidden struggles.

"You kind of face that challenge as an athlete," said Maggie Scott, a volleyball player at the U of O. "There's this stigma like, you need to be mentally strong, you need to be mentally tough. For me, that was really important. I didn't miss a practice, I didn't miss a game due to injury, but on the inside I thought I was really struggling."

According to the University of Oregon, last year, 10 percent of its student-athletes suffered from a physical injury, while 24 percent were diagnosed or treated for mental health issues.

"I didn't want to be one of those people who goes to see a therapist and looks like there's something going on with you or you're not all right," said Shweta Sangwan, who plays on the UO Tennis Team. "So I didn't do that, even though my freshman year there was a lot of things going on, teen drama and everything."

In the end, Sangwan ended up speaking to a therapist, and she, Scott and others are openly sharing their experiences through the Duck the Stigma Campaign.

"We hope that we can really show people that it's okay to not be okay," said Scott. "Hopefully by lessening the stigma around it, we can create an environment that's more open for people to discuss their struggles."

"Having more open conversations, so that hopefully one day, that if somebody's going through a hard time and they think they're not making the best decision, you can help them out and maybe change their mind," said Sangwan.

Both Scott and Sangwan say that therapy was a big help to overcoming challenges, and they say that whether it was talking to a coach, teammates or a therapist, having someone to listen to them in a non-judgmental way was key.

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