The members of Chico State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee could not have known just how timely their message might be when they set out to create the Scratch the Stigma campaign for Mental Health Awareness Month this May.

Many of the committee’s original plans were put on hold with the elimination of spring championships and the University’s move to a virtual campus because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. But their simple messages, and the resources they point to, provide a handhold during these disorienting times.

“Our motivation is to break the silence around mental health and help normalize talking openly about it,” said SAAC member, women’s track and field student-athlete, and compliance intern Nadia Torkman, who spearheaded the campaign. “We’re also hoping to connect our fellow Wildcats with campus and outside resources, because it can be hard and scary to reach out for help. We hope our message, which feels more relevant than ever right now, resonates throughout our campus and community.”

The seeds for Scratch the Stigma sprouted in spring 2019 when Torkman noticed that when she asked her peers how they were doing, they would quickly answer with an “okay” or “good,” perhaps choosing to not express how they were really feeling.

“Everyone has a bad day, a bad week, or a bad month here and there, but we don’t seem to talk about it as much as we could,” Torkman said. “As students, athletes, sons, daughters, and friends, we can be held to high standards and sometimes it feels like we have to be doing great all the time, which is not the case. We wanted to make the point that it’s okay to not be doing great. It’s completely normal. And it’s important to be able to talk about it and to reach out when you feel like you could use some help.”

“In the same way we as student-athletes discuss our physical wellness, we want people to feel free to discuss their mental wellness,” Torkman continued.

Chico State Director of Athletics, Anita Barker, praised the student-athletes for conceiving and crafting the campaign.

“It brings me great pride and joy to see our student-athletes caring for their fellow students in such a thoughtful and personal way,” Barker said. “Their desire to address mental health on our campus made me incredibly proud from the start and their powerful messages feel timelier than ever right now.”

The original campaign plan was to post videos online and display posters around campus and in the community. The posters include a QR code that, when scanned, navigates to a resource page that includes information from many on-campus entities, national organizations, and the NCAA Sports Science Institute.

“Whether you are a Chico State student, a student-athlete, or both, the page has lots of great resources,” said Torkman. “It’s important that we reach out when we’re struggling and we hope that anyone out there who is struggling right now will reach out to a friend or take advantage of the resources on our page.”

University Photographer Jason Halley took the photographs for the posters, which were designed by Ron Linzy of Creative Media and Technology. The WellCat Counseling Center vetted the information on the resource page.

“We are grateful for everyone all over campus who helped us put this campaign together,” Torkman said. “It’s been fun to see the Wildcat Family at work across campus, not just in the athletics department. There are so many talented people who were thrilled to help us reach our vision, and we’re extremely thankful.”

Scan one of the QR Codes or click here to visit the SAAC Scratch the Stigma resource page.