The Ohio State coach and his wife are starting a foundation along with Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. The issue is important to him after losing his father to suicide as a boy and a topic of growing importance in locker rooms across America.

Ohio State football: Ryan Day, wife establish fund for pediatric, adolescent mental wellness

“We decided to team up with these people because what they’re doing is something that hits home with me, hits home with Nina, and is something we want to be a part of,” said Day, whose father died by suicide in 1988 when Ryan was 9 years old. “It’s on the cutting edge in terms of what they want to do in building a hospital next spring for teenagers and adolescents in crisis.”

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“We believe in all of our hearts that this is something that can really improve our youth. This is an epidemic right now in our country, and we want to be a part of it so we started the fund where we want to raise as much money as we can for this hospital.”

The Days contributed $100,000 to the fund.

According to the hospital, one in five children has a significantly impairing mental disorder and less than half get the treatment they need.

The goal is to raise awareness, increase educational opportunities, inspire advocacy and provide role models for the push back against rising rates of depression and related issues in young people today.

The Days’ fund is part of the “On Our Sleeves” movement launched last year with the mission to shed light on youth mental health issues.

According to the hospital, that involves creating a network of support for families around the country living with mental illness, addressing the stigma associated with it and providing the tools necessary to improve outcomes.

“The idea is that we’re kind of one of the first hospitals in the nation that will have something like this and so then people across the country will see it as a way to improve mental health,” the 40-year-old Day said. “We see mental heath as a major issue. We see it here with our team and really throughout the state. Really humbled to be a part of this and hope we can make a major impact and save some lives moving forward.”

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Regarding his father’s passing, Day said, “Without getting into too many details, I think when you grow up and you’re young and something like that happens you go through a range of emotions from angry to sad to resentment.

“Then as you get older you start to realize, when you reach your 20s and your 30s it makes more sense what happened. You have a better perspective of what it is. Growing up I didn’t quite understand what all went down, and then as I got older I started to realize it was a sickness and there are people out there who need help. And there is a stigma attached to it I don’t think is right. It’s a stigma that I as a young person maybe bought into. And then as I got older I don’t buy that anymore. I think it’s just like any other sickness. If somebody has cancer or somebody gets killed, they need treatment. It’s the same thing with mental health. That’s the biggest thing, breaking the stigmas. Especially with men. Not having those conversations that they need help.”

Two sports psychologists and two athletic counselors are on staff to provide assistance for the football team.

“They’re in a high-profile position,” Day said of his players. “So there’s anxiety, pressure, things that go on with our players, and I want them to feel like they can have those conversations. Especially being a football coach, kind of a manly sport, it’s good for those guys to hear that we’re all vulnerable and it’s real. If people need help, they shouldn’t be ashamed of that.”

To donate and learn more about The Ryan and Christina Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness, visit onoursleeves.org/dayfamilyfund.

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