Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Boston Red Sox have partnered with disability rights organization the Ruderman Family Foundation, to launch a first-of-its-kind campaign which seeks to end the stigma associated with open discussions on mental health in the sport.
In three newly released public service announcements, Red Sox players Andrew Benintendi, Kevin Pillar, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Chris Sale, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Jonathan Lucroy, and Mitch Moreland all describe a culture in baseball which is still developing its prioritization of mental health for its players and coaches. The PSAs encourage social media usage of the hashtag #BenchStigma as a vehicle for building momentum around this issue in the game of baseball, as well as the game of life.
“When it comes to talking about mental health, we may hesitate and remain silent,” said Martinez. “Whether it’s with your teammates, friends, or family members, having conversations about mental health may be hard, but they are necessary.”
One of the PSAs notes that almost 50,000 Americans committed suicide during 2018 — 10,000 more people than the capacity of Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. “Suicide can be prevented,” said Lucroy. “We all must do our part in ending the stigma associated with seeking help.”
Another PSA explains how baseball players seek out the best possible care when their physical health is in question, yet they do not pay similar attention to their mental health. “We must give mental health the same care as we do our physical health,” Pillar said. “Lives depend on it.”
“Resources are available. The risk is far too great if we don’t talk about mental health,” said Sale.
In 2019, the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Link20 global social movement spearheaded a campaign which persuaded MLB to change the name of its “disabled list” to the “injured list.”
“We applaud the Red Sox for taking the bold step of becoming the first MLB franchise to openly speak out about mental health,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “As a result of this initiative, many more of the league’s 30 teams will be inspired to follow suit and contribute to benching stigma in their sport, once and for all. And, we hope hearing these well-respected athletes speak openly about this topic will encourage others to do the same and to seek support or services if they need it, particularly amid the current pandemic and so much isolation.”
The release of the #BenchStigma videos coincides with the last-minute push for nominations for the IMPACT Awards; a Red Sox Foundation grant program sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation which this year will offer much needed financial support to nonprofits focused on mental health. Red Sox fans in all six New England states are asked to nominate local nonprofits in the mental health space to win a grant, supporting their crucial work despite unforeseeable limitations created by the COVID-19 crisis. Each state will have two winners; the nomination period ends May 31st. The Ruderman Family Foundation has advocated for mental health needs throughout its history including the following throughout the pandemic, offering a $100K donation to Mass General Hospital and $10k to the Boston Police Foundation to increase their mental health resources and clinical hours available to these frontline workers.
About the Ruderman Family Foundation - The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization that advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. The Foundation supports effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the U.S. and the world.
The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community and imposes these values within its leadership and funding.
For more information, please visit www.rudermanfoundation.org