UVM athletes create mental health initiative


Alex Verret, Staff Writer

The work of two UVM student-athletes to create an initiative around mental health has led to the opening of a new office for sports psychology.

This past spring, seniors Trae Bell-Haynes and Kelly Lennon teamed up with Living Well and UVM athletics to create  Rally Around Mental Health,  an initiative designed to bring awareness to the mental health of student athletes.

“Originally, it was to bring awareness to an issue that was kind of underappreciated here at UVM,” Bell-Haynes said, “especially in the athletic department.”

Now, nearly six months later, the groundwork laid by Lennon and Bell-Haynes has led to the formation of Catamount Sport Psychology and Counseling,  a joint initiative between the Center for Health and Wellbeing and UVM athletics, according to a Sept. 12 UVM athletics article.

Lennon and Bell-Haynes worked in conjunction with LivingWell and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council — of which they are chair and vice-chair, respectively — when creating RAMH.

The program included mental health awareness games, tabling and pep rallies, Bell-Haynes said.

At the time RAMH was created,  UVM only had one part-time sports psychologist on staff, Bell-Haynes said.

Now, CPSC will have several trained sports psychologists in addition to other resources, such as educational programming issues impacting wellness and performance, for varsity athletes to take care of their mental wellbeing.

Sports psychology teaches athletes mental skills related to performance, to successfully complete exercise programs and to realize their own potential, according to the Association for Applied Sports.

It is different from general counseling in that it focuses more on performance, Bell-Haynes said.

“People come to me and say, ‘I’m struggling with X, Y and Z,’ but they would never go and say that to someone else,” Lennon said in a March interview with WPTZ.

CSPC will be run through UVM athletics, and will have a three-person staff composed of Ari Shapiro-Miller, assistant director for sport psychology and counseling, former Living Well Director Kelly Thorne and Sports Psychology Consultant Sheila Stawinski, according to UVM athletics.

“We wanted mental health to be treated similar to physical injury,” Bell-Haynes said. “If you twist your ankle, you’d tell someone. Why shouldn’t it be the same for mental health?”