- James Madison softball player Lauren Bernett recently died of an apparent suicide.
- Dallastown High’s Tessa Thompson and Bernett were teammates for the Pennsylvania Fastpitch team.
- After Bernett’s death, Thompson decided to join the battle to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
- The entire Dallastonwn team of Thompson also joined the campaign.
Suicide is a very uncomfortable topic.
For student-athletes, however, this is a subject that needs to be discussed further. This has become tragically evident in recent months.
The apparent suicide of James Madison softball player Lauren Bernett has shocked the college world – including her own teammates.
“I was in complete denial,” said Tessa Thompson of Dallastown, who played with Bernett on the Pennsylvania Fastpitch team. “I couldn’t believe this kind, happy person could just be gone.”
Sadly, she is the third female NCAA Division I athlete to take her own life in recent months. The first was Stanford soccer goalie Katie Meyer in March. Then came Wisconsin runner Sarah Shulze on April 13. Then Bernett just two weeks ago.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people 24 and younger account for 14% of all suicides, a percentage that has been steadily increasing in recent years, especially among college students.
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Bernett, a standout catcher, was part of a College Softball World Series run for James Madison just a season ago and was recently named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week after a scorching weekend. which saw her go 4 for 4 at the plate and collect seven RBIs.
McDonald’s wife Pennsy was found dead two days later.
It was a devastating loss that not only affected those in the school, but the college sports world as a whole.
Bernett suicide hits in Dallastown: The tentacles of this tragedy even reached the York County High School scene.
On their senior night, the Dallastown Wildcats decided to wear suicide prevention ribbons in their hair in honor of Bernett and to educate young athletes about mental health.
Thompson, a teammate of Bernett’s on the Pennsylvania Fastpitch team for the past five years, said she couldn’t believe the news of Bernett’s death.
“Anyone who told me, I just denied it,” she said. “It was devastating.”
Although Bernett’s death took a long time to finally come to terms with Thompson, she and the rest of her teammates decided to wear the ribbons to garner more support on a topic they believe isn’t discussed enough.
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“We want everyone to know there’s someone there for them,” Thompson said. “We don’t think enough people realize this is a problem. Teachers and coaches need to learn to spot the signs of depression in athletes and students.”
Thompson and her teammates plan to wear the ribbons for the rest of the season.
Thompson faced his own challenges: Thompson, who is committed to playing NCAA Division I softball at Saint Francis in Loretto, Cambria County, admits she has faced her own mental battles.
She recently returned from an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury that wiped out much of her junior season. Still, she persevered and became one of the best players in the state. She had a strong batting season for the Wildcats, hitting .536 with five homers and 26 RBI in Monday’s games, according to Dallastown Softball Pages MaxPreps.
His journey through devastating back and injury injuries has given him insight into the struggles athletes can go through. The pressure of having to perform on the pitch while keeping up with school work are two things she highlighted as factors.
Thompson is looking to take her mental health campaign to Saint Francis, where she will major in sports management.
Thompson is not alone in drawing attention to the problem: Thompson isn’t alone in Dallastown campaigning for mental health awareness.
Dallastown pitching ace Gabby Fowler (2.07 ERA, 9-5 record) said the team is looking to honor Bernett’s legacy and raise awareness about an issue that touches them all.
“I love the game. I love my teammates and my coaches,” Fowler said. “This is something that is close to all of our hearts. We are happy to be able to show our support for Lauren and her family.”
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Fowler has become one of the best pitchers in the York-Adams League and has a chance to play at the top level, where the pressure and expectations of student-athletes are much greater.
“I want to play at the next level. Things will be tougher and the competition will be better,” Fowler said. “I like to be a good teammate in every way possible. I’m always there for the team no matter what. I plan to wear the ribbon for the rest of the season. We want to raise more awareness. What happened to Lauren (Bernett) is so sad.”
Thompson said she wants athletes to know there are always people out there to listen.
“We are here and we love you,” she said. “There’s always someone to talk to. There needs to be more awareness of the struggles athletes go through.”
Contact Dante Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ydsports.