UNC soccer honors Katie Meyer on Mental Health Awareness Night

(Photo courtesy @UNCwomenssoccer)

The UNC women’s soccer team used its season opener Thursday against Tennessee to shine a light on mental health awareness.

“We want to place a priority on mental health because we believe it is just as important as our physical health. We ALL have mental health and our mental health matters,” the team wrote in an Instagram post announcing the game as Mental Health Awareness Night at Dorrance Field.

The Tar Heels and Volunteers observed a 19-second moment of silence before the match to honor Katie Meyer, a Stanford goalkeeper who died by suicide in March. Meyer wore the No. 19 jersey for the Cardinal.

Three jerseys were displayed on the Tar Heels’ bench during the match: One with the No. 19, again in honor of Meyer; one with North Carolina midfielder Madi Pry’s No. 23, in honor of two of her friends; and a blank jersey, in honor of anyone who has been impacted by suicide.

“By holding a night like this, we hope to break stigmas around mental health,” Pry said in a pregame video. “While we cannot fix someone else’s mental health, we can be in it with them, showing them love and compassion.”

Dorrance Field was plastered with messages of support, directing students to on-campus mental health resources.

“This team is just awesome because we play for something bigger than ourselves,” said defender Tori Hansen after North Carolina’s 3-0 win. “We know how important soccer is, but at the end of the day we’re people first.”

A recent NCAA survey showed that athletes in women’s sports reported more mental health concerns than their peers in men’s sports. The study, conducted in late 2021, revealed that 47 percent of women reported feeling overwhelmed by all they have to do either “constantly” or “most every day,” compared to 25 percent of men.

Meyer’s parents have created an initiative called Katie’s Save since their daughter’s passing, with the stated mission to support students navigating the dynamics of campus life that may be complicated by added pressures of academics, sports, performing arts and other activities.

Meyer’s former team also honored her in its own season opener. The Stanford women’s soccer team took the field Thursday wearing warm-up shirts emblazoned with “Mental Health Matters” on the back and “988,” the national suicide and crisis hotline, on the sleeve.

“Our team went through the unimaginable in the spring,” Stanford defender Kennedy Wesley said. “And if we can take anything from it, we want to make it known that it’s OK to ask for help. We have the suicide hotline on the side of our warmup shirts so that people know that we want to talk about it and make it a conversation.”

Note: If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.