Cavanagh hosts mental health awareness panel


Tyler Gallo

MOON TOWNSHIP — Panelists (from left): Tyler Kennedy, Jessica Gazzola, Ashley McCombs answer questions regarding mental health on January 25, 2019 (Tyler Gallo/RMU Sentry Media).

Tyler Gallo, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP — On Thursday night Robert Morris University women’s hockey’s director of operations, Liam Cavanagh, hosted a panel on mental health awareness in Yorktown Hall ahead of Friday’s game against RIT. Players from the women’s hockey team, along with other student-athletes, were in attendance at the event. The panel included three guest speakers. The guest speakers were Tyler Kennedy, former NHL forward who won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Penguins, Jessica Gazzola, former forward for the RMU women’s hockey team and Ashley McCombs, an adjunct faculty member at RMU. McCombs also practices counseling at “My Life Counseling” in Mt. Lebanon.

The event started with a few videos highlighting the seriousness of mental health awareness, and then Cavanagh recounted his battles with mental health and how he has overcome them. He said that even though one may have a good life, your mental health can still be affected, Cavanagh also hosts a mental health awareness podcast called “Never Give Up.”

Cavanagh has told his story at schools and other locations and is happy to see the changes. “I think it’s always awesome to work with student-athletes,” said Cavanagh. “To see the changes all around and in this room, it’s really inspiring.”

The first and hardest hitting question Cavanagh asked was about the phrase “suck it up”. All three panelists stated that this is one of the worst things you can say to someone who is dealing with mental health problems because you have no idea what they are going through.

Tyler Kennedy, a former Pittsburgh Penguin, was one of the three guest speakers. After recounting his story without censorship, he made it evident that while professional athletes can seem like superheroes, they too are human and go through the same struggles as us. He went over his mental health problems and how he became addicted to Ambien, a sleeping pill, that he took in order to combat his sleeping problems throughout his NHL career. He also talked about how he went to the Penguins’ resident sports psychologist and it really helped him through his problems.

Jessica Gazzola, a former forward for the women’s hockey team, recounted her stories of teammates and others in her life that were struggling with mental health problems, but everyone shielded away from talking about them.

Ashley McCombs, who is an adjunct faculty member at RMU who also practices counseling at “My Life Counseling” in Mt. Lebanon, stated that while she is a counselor, she is just like everyone else and is there to help, and her door is always open.

Cavanagh loves to go around recounting his story to schools and other places to help people as he goes around. “It’s so nice to be able to have people reach out to me after my presentations,” said Cavanagh. “To know that I am helping someone is the most important thing to me.”

Friday night’s women’s hockey game against RIT is Mental Health Awareness Night for the Colonials and starts at 7:00 p.m.

If you, or anyone you know, is dealing with mental health issues, you can contact the RMU counseling center at 412-397-5900 or go to the lower level at Patrick Henry. For more information, head to their website.

NOTE: This article previously reported that Ashley McCombs was a mental health counselor at Robert Morris University. This information was inaccurate. McCombs is an adjunct faculty member at Robert Morris and practices counseling at “My Life Counseling” in Mt. Lebanon.