On Monday, the college sports world was stunned to hear the news that Northwestern women's basketball player Jordan Hankins had died at the age of nineteen. On Tuesday, the news became much more sad when it was announced Hankins had taken her own life.
Though I did not know Ms. Hankins, the news cut to my core, as Jordan was the exact same age as my daughter, the beautiful young lady you've seen at events with me and in many of our Twitter avatars over the years.
I have been on a personal journey since last summer, when a simple Facebook post stopped me in my tracks and began a vision whose first part will be realized beginning January 19th, when the Hanover Herald-Progress newspaper will team with The RVA Sports Network for a special three-part series of articles dealing with today's student-athletes, mental health, depression, suicide, and other issues.
We will introduce you to two student-athletes, once standouts on the court and on the field in high school in Hanover County, who found themselves in college grappling with psychological issues, and have been courageous enough to share their stories, their journeys, their darkest moments, and their hopes for today and tomorrow with us, to help, not just the student-athlete community in high school and college, but, they hope, and I as well, to every single student in every single high school, college and university, that, if you are dealing with mental health issues, the following is true:
1) You are NOT alone.
2) There are so many, many people ready at this very moment to help you.
We also will profile, in the final article of the series, an organization dedicated to reaching out and offering incredible services, and most importantly, hope, to Richmond-area teens struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, and other mental health issues, in tribute to another area teen gone way too soon, but for a much different reason.
In the end, I will make sure that this will only be the beginning of The RVA Sports Network's outreach to partner with members of the mental health community, doing our part to provide help, and hope, to anyone in need.
You will find the word "hope" used multiple times in this statement, and that is on purpose. I, too, have dealt with various mental health issues since the age of twelve, when I became, as you see on my profile on all four of our websites, "one of seven million Americans with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)". My family has dealt with mental health challenges, and my son has triumphantly, but daily, dealt with issues as well. The hardest thing to experience as a parent of a living child is to watch them suffer, and not know how to help.
This new focus and outreach is deeply personal, and if we are able to help one person, it will be worth every effort. I, years ago, was very ashamed of my personal mental health issues. I am not ashamed anymore, and neither should anyone else be.
In a totally new age for teenagers and young adults, with never-ending communication via social media, the ability to communicate instantly around the world, we have seen many positives come from it. This network's very existence is, in part, thanks to it. But there are many negatives to this 'brave new world' that we live in, too. We are changing several things that we do in terms of how we cover events, and, more importantly, people, because the bottom line is, most of our coverage deals with people between the ages of 14 and 24, and we want to always make a positive impact with what we do.
I sincerely hope you will read each of the articles, which will publish in the January 19, January 26 and February 2 issues of The Herald Progress, and will also appear here at RVASportsNetwork.com.
This is only the beginning of our focus on this issue. When we watch any game, we can see if a player is out due to physical injury, whether it's a cast, a boot or a brace that is present. But we never know who may be playing with a heavy heart or a heavy, burdened mind. Let's work together to always be mindful of that.
Thank you, for the bottom of my heart, for supporting the RVA Sports Network, and for your time.
Director Of Operations, Social Media/Broadcast
The RVA Sports Network