A screen capture from the first campaign video for #RaiseTheSword, 2017-2018 academic year.

“Athletics has provided me with much of what I hold near and dear to my heart. It has provided me with an outlet to deal with my emotions, and balance my stress and anxiety levels,” said Cross Country captain, and new co-leader of the newly formed Trent University SAMHI Campus Team, Matt Melo. Matt’s journey has taken him from the small town of Keswick, Ontario to athletic and academic success in track and field, cross country running, and anthropology, culminating in a U-Sports All Canadian Academic honor.

Despite the success, the journey has also proven to compound a different, darker challenge. Years of elite competition and training distanced Matt from other interests outside of sport, and placed a physical and mental toll on his body. Thoughts became clouded and his outlook on life became bleaker. Eventually, Matt had to leave the sport he once loved.

“I felt as if I could tell no one outside the safety of my own house,” Matt said. “The feeling is almost indescribable.” As Matt came to Trent to pursue an undergraduate degree, the epiphany happened. Seeking out help and utilizing the resources available brought a positive outcome in his mental state, and so the passion to return to the student-athlete lifestyle returned.

The toll mental health can have on a person is great, and is only compounded when mixed with the student-athlete schedule demands, but it doesn’t mean you can’t follow your passion. Matt had used sport as a means of improving confidence, developing leadership skills, and coping with the emotional and physical stress that his illness presents. The creation of Trent Student-Mental-Health-Initiative (SAMHI) has provided another avenue for Matt to focus on, and overall hopes to contribute positively to the wellbeing of student-athletes not only at Trent, but around the world. By raising awareness, Matt and SAMHI hope to share the challenges student-athletes face, and allow others to recognize fellow athletes in need, and provide an avenue for direction and help.

“Mental illness is not a choice, but sometimes there is a choice to accept the help that is being offered. Everyone needs a helping hand once in a while. It is not a sign of weakness.”

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will be affected by mental health. For more information on Matt’s story and SAMHI’s mission, visit their website at www.samhi.ca, and for information on Bell Let’s Talk visit letstalk.bell.ca to show support for Bell Let’s Talk day on Jan. 31.