NIU to host Daniel Carcillo at Oct. 9 stop of new #SameHere Sit-Down college tour

NIU has been chosen as one of the 15 stops for the first #SameHere Sit-Down College Campus Tour, organized by mental health non-profit organization We’re All A Little “Crazy.”

Former Chicago Blackhawks player Daniel Carcillo will headline the evening of vulnerable, interactive stories, discussions and musical entertainment, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell also will appear as will Eric Kussin, a 15-year professional sports executive whose career took a sudden and rapid decline when he developed a severe case of PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Speakers and musicians will focus on how to transform the way mental health is approached on campuses while also providing strategies on managing anxiety, stress and trauma – things everyone will face at one point or another in life.

It’s a mission shared by Brooke Ruxton, executive director of Counseling and Consultation Services and a licensed clinical psychologist, and Carrie Kortegast, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education.

“The issue of mental health on college campuses is an ever-growing concern for universities across the country,” Ruxton says, “and this particular event seems like a unique opportunity where we can bring together people from different walks of life with different interests to talk about the common thread of how depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns impact us.” Ruxton and Kortegast are part of the leadership team of Helping Huskies Thrive, the recipient of a Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grant awarded to NIU in 2016 to support suicide prevention and to help address mental health issues among underrepresented groups on campus.

Carrie Kortegast

Doing so “in a way that we hope is entertaining and educational will help people feel safer in telling their own stories,” she adds.

Bringing a celebrity athlete such as Carcillo into the conversation flings open an important door, Kortegast says.

Carcillo, who retired from the Blackhawks in 2015, is a mental health and concussion advocate who is suing the National Hockey League for alleged withholding of information regarding concussion-related brain injuries.

“With athletics and athletes, we have a real stigma about being tough, about needing to be tough and about admitting that you need help would make you look less tough,” Kortegast says. “We’re doing this tour to raise awareness of how mental health affects everybody and about the ways we can try to destigmatize help-seeking.”

His voice will provide “an inclusive conversation that everyone can be a part of,” she adds. “Whether you’re an athlete, a sports reporter or a musician doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle.

Brooke Ruxton

“What’s unique about this event is hearing from parts of the world that we might not typically hear from when we talk about mental health,” Ruxton confirms. “To have a professional athlete talk about how he’s struggled is sort of the antithesis of how we typically view athletes as having strength and power. This event demonstrates that real strength can come from having the courage to share your challenges.”

Students and other members of the university community who attend also will learn how they can help themselves and others.

“Students are concerned about their friends, they’re concerned about their peers and often they don’t know about the resources that can help,” Kortegast says. “It’s important that people come to learn about some critically important topics.”

We’re All A Little “Crazy” is a global alliance of athletes, celebrities, expert practitioners, influencers and advocates. Through face-to-face educational initiatives and the launch of the #SameHere campaign, its allies champion their mental health stories in a deeply raw and vulnerable way, encouraging others to do the same.

NIU’s Tuesday, Oct. 9 event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 815-753-1206 or email helpinghuskiesthrive@gmail.com.

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