Off the field, the Bates Field Hockey team is helping to lead a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Taylor Haugh ‘19, who started the field hockey fundraising efforts a few years back, feels a personal connection to the cause. Two years ago, Haugh lost one of her close friends to suicide.
Every day, an average of 123 suicides are committed. In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst individuals aged 15-24. In one year, an average of nearly 45,000 Americans die of suicide. These national statistics represent the data collection for the AFSP.
The annual fundraiser kicked off on Sunday, Sept. 23 as Bates Field Hockey hosted Williams College in a rivalry NESCAC duel. Initial donations were collected after the game, but the fundraiser will continue through the month of October. “The number of people who have been affected by suicide is striking. Spearheading this fundraiser, I have hopes of highlighting the issue of mental health, something that is often overlooked in our society,” Haugh said.
The fundraising goal for the field hockey team is $1,000. “We’re at close to $400 [with] online donations, and then we have between $200-300 on cash donations,” Haugh said. “We’re at a little over $600 right now, so we should reach our goal by the end of the month.”
Before Haugh’s sophomore year, upon learning about the death of her close friend, she called her field hockey coach.
“We organized a game, and we’ve done it every year,” Haugh said. “This is the third year that we’ve done the game, and it will continue, because there are other girls on the team who have had similar situations.”
Every year, when the fundraiser comes around, Haugh feels a sense of guilt in not being able to see what her friend went through. “Luc was the most selfless, kind, intelligent friend that I have ever had,” she said. “I know my friend is in a better place, and I have really come to terms with that. The outcome, as much as it is hard, is what he needed.”
Suicide and depression are difficult topics to bring up in conversation. “When we found out, I don’t think anyone was completely shocked, because we had known that he had been going through dark times, so it’s even harder,” Haugh said. “How do you help someone where you’re in a position where you don’t know if you’re close enough to step in?”
Haugh wishes more people could have helped her friend when he was in need. “When the time of year comes around, I’m thankful for remembering him,” said Haugh. “I think of him every day; not a day goes by where I don’t think of my friend.”
The event is saddening in many facets, but uplifting as well. “The days when I actively play for him, I feel so strong,” Haugh said. “It’s just hard, because it’s really hard to step in when someone is going through something like this, and it’s so necessary, but how do you find that balance between overstepping and understepping.”
Haugh picked the AFSP organization for a variety of reasons. “I think AFSP puts their money towards such good research and such good preventative health,” Haugh said. “I know that their money goes to such great causes.” After Bandoni passed away, his parents named a few organizations to donate to. AFSP was one of those organizations.
Over the course of the fundraiser’s history at Bates, Haugh has learned to reach out to many different groups of people on campus. “I’m very involved in the math department, I’m very involved in the athletic aspect of Bates, and so I think I’ve been able to reach out to all different groups of people,” Haugh said. “All of my friends at Bates are really supportive and always donate and spread the word.”
Many people fail to understand the severity of mental health illness. “Regardless of my friend, and how much it’s been affecting me, I will never understand what he went through, ever,” Haugh said. “That is something that I don’t think everyone understands.”
Nationally, suicide is a serious issue. On a smaller scale, the issue is closer to Bates than one may hope to think. “We don’t see it, because it is something people tend to hide,” Haugh said. “CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) is used by the majority of students at Bates.”
Although Taylor is optimistic about the future of mental health awareness growth, she is not satisfied. “I don’t think there is enough help going towards this cause, but I also think that it is growing,” she said. “I hope that in the future, people are able to take this as something like cancer.”