Student-Athlete Mental Health Discussion

Set up at the mental health discussion with contact information and stress toys Feb. 5, 2024 (Heidi Egerer)
Set up at the mental health discussion with contact information and stress toys Feb. 5, 2024 (Heidi Egerer)
Heidi Egerer

On Monday, Feb. 7, the Jana Marie Foundation hosted a mental health discussion and invited Penn State student-athletes to speak about managing the pressures and anxieties of being a student-athlete.

The first speaker was Jacob Oberle, a senior captain for the Penn Men’s Swimming and Diving team. Oberle has been swimming competitively for 16 years.

Oberle began the discussion by sharing how he was swimming 12 hours a day, four times a week, and struggled to find a purpose. “I struggled a lot with it [mental health] myself and I felt like there was a vacancy, especially on the men’s side and it was much harder to talk about. Recently, I haven’t been the best on my team and if I could be that voice for other people, then I’m gonna be the voice to put my hand on the wall first,” Oberle said.

Oberle also acknowledged the struggles of self-confidence and self-comparison and the effects they can have on athletes.

“Do not compare. I think in life, everyone does that, it’s very easy to do that. You can easily put yourself next to someone and you can easily say ‘this person’s better’. Comparison gets really, really dirty, really, really quickly and can be very self-deprecating and also very consuming,” Oberle said. “Run your own race, wrestle your own match, and realize that what you’re doing is your thing and everybody’s journey looks so different.”

Gianna Cutaia, a senior Penn State Women’s lacrosse defender, was the second speaker and shared the mental health battle she experienced while recovering from a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus her freshman year.

Cutaia was inspired to speak out about her mental health for a multitude of reasons. “Just knowing that I’m a very vocal person in general made me wanna talk about mental health. If you would’ve asked me this question two [to] three years ago, I would’ve said ‘no shot’ would I ever talk about mental health to people,” Cutaia explained. “After I figured out my own mental struggles and how to cope with them, dissect them, and help myself to become much happier in the world of sports, it made me realize that I had a very unique and important story that I could share it to people around the world and my community and help younger kids that might go through the same things that I’ve been through.”

Macey Mitchell, a sophomore girls lacrosse player, was present for the discussion. Mitchell explained what stood out to her.  “My biggest takeaway was to enjoy what you do and remember the why- why you get up every morning, why you practice, why you love what you do.”

Marisa Vicere, Jana Marie’s founder and president, was there with additional staff and helped set up a table with fidget toys, breathing and mindfulness cards, mental-health stickers, as well as contact information for everybody in attendance to take.

Table providing Jana Marie contact information and stress toys for guests. Feb 7, 2024. (Heidi Egerer)

Vicere explained the importance of the discussion. “I’m just so grateful that our student-athletes and Penn State student-athletes are able to have these conversations about mental health and to really remember it’s okay to reach out for that help. It’s okay to reach out to help support someone and that we just need to show up as our best selves and be human first.”

According to their Instagram, Morgan’s Message SCASD, a club aiming to expand the mental health discussion by normalizing conversations, empowering others, and supporting those who feel alone, is having its first meeting on Feb. 16, from 4:00-5:00.

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