The Saint Joseph’s University Athletics Department has created a mental health peer support group, Senior Associate Athletics Director for High Performance Dr. Eric Laudano announced on Thursday, coinciding with World Mental Health Day.

Inspired by women’s track standout Caroline Duffy, the mental health peer support group will provide a platform for student-athletes to talk about mental health issues, break down stigma, and drive programming for the SJU student-athlete population. Under Dr. Laudano’s guidance, the group will hold monthly meetings for all student-athletes, be visible at campus and community mental health events, and promote leadership and stigma breakdowns on the SJU campus. 

"By creating this group, we are hoping to start the conversation relating to mental health, and what we can do as a community to support each other and spark hope in those fighting their own personal battles," Duffy said. "I believe the formation of this group will serve as a safe space for all athletes in the community, both those who are struggling and those who want to be a support system. It is an honor to get the chance to work with Dr. Eric Laudano and my fellow student athletes surrounding this cause."

The leadership group will work to drive programming, select discussion points, plan events, and create an all student-athlete meeting schedule where all student-athletes can participate in peer supported mental health discussions and programming. Dr. Laudano will serve in an administrative advisory role to this leadership group and overall peer support group.  

Joining Duffy as leaders of the mental health peer support group are Imogen Ayliffe (women’s basketball), Briana Baier (women’s track), Scott Battaglia (men’s tennis), Michael Baumgarten (men’s track), Slam Dunkley (men’s rowing), Noah Henderson (golf), Alex Hood (men’s soccer), Lani Mouat (women’s lacrosse) and Brian Vance (baseball).

"Our mission as a Jesuit university involves educating and caring for the whole person. Consistent with that mission, we have heard loud and clear from our student-athletes that they are seeking additional mental health support, and I am incredibly pleased that we are able to deliver. Whether that support involves game or race day performance, diagnosed mental health conditions, assistance in transitioning to college, or other -- the support will help our student-athletes maximize their potential as students, as leaders, and as athletes," said Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner.

Appointed as senior associate athletic director for high performance, Dr. Laudano, has made mental health his first priority in building the High Performance Team at Saint Joseph’s. Since the creation of his new senior level leadership role this past summer by Bodensteiner, Dr. Laudano oversees all areas of student-athlete healthcare and holistic development.