Athletes Connected: Fighting the hidden battles
By Kelly Hall | Michigan Daily Sports Editor
Garrick Roemer was scared. The 17-year-old wasn’t comfortable in the back of the ambulance. He didn’t want to be there, and on the surface, it didn’t look like he belonged there either.
His mom, Cathy Radovich, overheard him nervously asking the paramedics if his emergency trip to the hospital was going to follow him, if people were going to hear about it.
Outside that ambulance, Roemer seemed to be living out a reality he had strived for. As a 2012 graduate of Saline High School and lifelong Michigan fan, he grew up a hop, skip and a jump away from Ann Arbor as he ran to an All-State title in the 400-meter dash. He committed to Michigan’s track and field team as a preferred walk-on, rejecting a partial scholarship from Michigan State in order to don the maize and blue. There are pictures of Roemer dressed in Michigan apparel from the age of 2 onward, and a scholarship offer from his rival wasn’t going to sway him. He came to Ann Arbor to fulfill his dream.
But you can’t always tell what’s really going on from the outside looking in.
On that day, the future Michigan track athlete didn’t want to go to the hospital, didn’t want to talk about his problems — but Radovich knew he needed to. The spring of his senior year of high school was difficult for Roemer, so after consulting his therapist, Radovich called the paramedics, and Roemer reluctantly got in the ambulance.
He looked physically healthy, and he wasn’t sick in the traditional sense. But he had threatened to hurt himself in front of people at school, and that was enough cause for alarm.
When people suffer from a heart attack or a stroke, they don’t worry about seeking medical attention. But when people need an emergency psychiatric evaluation, they very rarely seek the help they need. Sitting in an ambulance with his life in danger, Roemer was wondering what other people would think.
For most athletes, the biggest battle takes place internally. And far too often, that struggle goes unheard.
A 2014 study conducted by Dr. Daniel Eisenberg and Ph.D. candidate Sarah Ketchen Lipson at the University showed that of a random sample of approximately 7,000 students at nine colleges, just 30 percent of those with depression or anxiety sought mental health services.
For student-athletes, the statistic was even lower. Just 10 percent of student-athletes with depression or anxiety used mental health services.
In May 2014, following his second year at Michigan, Roemer committed suicide. According to Radovich, a “perfect storm” of events had hit her son, including injury and an isolating redshirt sophomore year that prevented him from traveling with his teammates.
“I think stigma really was a part of what stopped him from getting the help he needed, and that’s kinda why I’m here (talking about it),” Radovich said. “Whether you’re an athlete or not, it hovers over you.”