The Misericordia University field hockey team dedicated games this past season to individuals who have lost their lives to suicide.
Allie Bianco, sophomore occupational therapy major, played her second season of field hockey on defense.
With a dedicated mission to be the voices letting people know it is okay to not be okay and create awareness, she and the team created a #standuptosuicide video, where the players wrote a script and had teammates read part of that script on camera. This video was later edited and has since been shared on social media. The players have also have appeared on local news station, WBRE-TV, twice.
Initially, the players participated in a walk in Wilkes-Barre to support suicide awareness and then decided that, for every game, they would choose someone a member of the team knew who lost their life to suicide.
Bianco said the goals of the dedication games were to honor and remember the lives of those individuals and show support for their families and friends.
“Family and friends remember their lost ones every day and our team wanted to remember alongside them in a way to show our support,” said Bianco.
Another goal was to spread the message of support as far as possible.
“We want as many people possible to know that it is okay not to be okay and that we support all individuals affected by suicide,” Bianco said. “ Ultimately, by playing our dedication games and sharing our video, we hope that we are able to start conversations about suicide and break the stigma that so often surrounds mental health and suicide.”
The team has dedicated games to people of all ages. Anyone on the team who had someone in their mind was encouraged to let Bianco know and the team would reach out to the family of that individual.
Bianco got in touch with the families to give them information about the game and learn more about their loved one, a task that proved to be very emotional.
“It was an emotional process that left me really feeling like I knew the individuals we were honoring,” she said. “Then, before each game when their names were announced, it would really hit me that I will never really get to know them. I really wish I could have met all the individuals we honored.”
Bianco said this is another reason as to what inspired the idea and what continues to inspire her the most to work to keep raising suicide awareness.
Robyn Stahovic has been the head field hockey coach at Misericordia for the past 18 years and has supported the girls with their idea of wanting to spread awareness since the moment it came to her.
“Mental health is shoved under the carpet and people don’t want to discuss it and talk about it and we wanted to bring light to it and not make it a stigma, but embrace it and talk about the struggles that people go through,” Stahovic said.
She further explained the players printed out yellow ribbons and each member of the team had the opportunity to write something meaningful on the ribbons. Those yellow ribbons went in the hallway of their locker room where there were also pictures of the individuals.
For each game, players added pictures and kept them up through the end of the field hockey season.
“I think it’s been great,” Stahovic said. “It’s a cause that we really feel passionate about, but I think it’s also about supporting each other. It’s understanding that everyone goes through trials and recognizing that everyone needs a little bit of help sometimes. It’s something that they really embraced and the support, it’s just tremendous.”
Both Bianco and Stahovic would like to make the dedications something they do each year and hope it becomes a tradition that will continue.
Stahovic gives full credit and her full support to the girls of the team for their hard work, dedication and passion and for bringing about more awareness of suicide.
“This has nothing to do with me,” Stahovic said. “This is all about the team and the athletes, and this is about them coming to me with an idea looking for my support and guidance. I think it’s phenomenal.”
Stahovic also said the girls being able to use their voices as athletes to speak out about something they’re passionate about and being vulnerable enough to have these conversations makes her very proud to be their coach.
“I’m very proud of them and I’m very humbled to be their coach and to coach a group of young women who are so passionate about something bigger than themselves and they want to outreach to the community; they want to be a voice and they want to help others,” she said.
Bianco wants people to know they can follow the team’s Instagram account @misericordiafieldhockey to stay updated on what the players are doing. Anyone who would like to have a game dedicated to a loved one next season is encouraged to speak to any of the field hockey players
“Please, never hesitate to reach out if you need help,” she said. “It is okay not to be okay, but not okay to stay that way. The world needs you in it and you are loved.”