High school coaches make mental health a priority

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan coaches are calling more than just the right plays — they’re calling attention to their players’ mental health with hopes of preventing suicide.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among high school students,” said Christy Buck, executive director for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.

For the first time, the Michigan High School Athletic Association is using the Mental Health Foundation’s Be Nice model to train 30,000 high school coaches on ways to combat and prevent suicide. The training is mandatory.

“We want to make sure we are getting kids, or anybody, the right treatment on the onset when they are first starting to struggle,” Buck said.

Kellee Koncki knows that struggle. When’s she not working as a senior assistant prosecutor for Kent County, she’s coaching a varsity volleyball team at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School. She took the training a few weeks ago.

“I think that the basic signs to be aware of I know now which I didn’t know before,” Koncki said. “Even as a parent, I think it’s going to help me.”

Koncki said the training helped her approach mental health issues without offending her players. Above all, she said it’s helping her break down the stigma of battling suicide.

“I think that’s why we need something like this,” she said.

While athletes may not open up overnight, Buck said she hopes the Be Nice model will at least start a conversation.

“I may be able to improve, change and save live,” said Buck.

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