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The Days donate $1 million to establish mental health fund at Ohio State

 Ryan and Nina Day announce their gift to fund mental health research with a focus on resilience
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Ryan and Nina Day announce their gift to fund mental health research with a focus on resilience.

Ohio State University head football coach Ryan Day and his wife, Nina have made a $1 million donation to fund research and services that promote mental health with a focus on resilience.

The Nina and Ryan Day Resilience Fund will be part of Ohio State University's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health to help college students and adults.

"As we all know, today's fast-paced world can bring stressful obstacles including some we don't see coming," Nina Day said. "Like all families, we have shared great moments and successes while also experiencing heartbreak and struggle. We want our kids to understand that life is about enjoying the highs and managing the lows. We want our children to have the resilience to thrive in the fast of adversity. If they ever face a challenge that feels too big to handle, we want them to be empowered to ask for help."

Dr. K. Luan Phan, professor and chair of Ohio State's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, sees the gift as transformative but also a catalyst for conversation. Specifically, he wants to shift the paradigm from taking care of illness toward prevention and cultivating resilience.

"Not everyone does poorly after adversity and stress," Dr. Phan noted. "People have skills and abilities to bounce back and do well. What can we learn in the science of resilience to cultivate that so we can give those same skills to other people facing challenges of mental health and addiction. The generous gifts from the Days and many others will begin to propel that mission, that science, that research, and then how to transform that into strategies and treatments for our community."

Dr. Phan wants to build a center to bring the best researchers and clinicians together to treat mental health with the same intensity and focus as cancer or heart disease. He also called for more navigators to help guide people to the appropriate resources and overall to establish a safe space to talk about mental health.

It's something football coach Ryan Day has tried to do. He's talked openly about his father, who died by suicide when Day was just 8 years old. In March of this year, Ohio State offensive lineman Harry Miller announced his retirement from the game because of mental health issues that pushed him to the brink of taking his own life. In a detailed statement on social media, Miller credited Day for getting him help writing “If not for him and the staff, my words would not be a reflection. They would be evidence in a post-mortem."

By establishing this resilience fund, the Days hope to make mental health as much of a priority as physical health.

"There were a lot of things that happened like Harry's situation, but there were a couple we haven't made public where people needed the resources," Coach Day said. "Certainly that college age, it's a tough stretch for a lot of people. There's help out there. I think that's the first thing. It's hard in the moment. If you break your leg, there's a solution. When you have a mental affliction, it doesn't seem similar but it is. There's a solution. There's different avenues we can take to help treat those types of things. I just think that approach is hopeful and not where you think there's no answers."

"I would just like to tell people that just like with physical health, we all struggle with Covid and broken ankles but your brain is another organ in your body that can get sick - and not to feel shame if it does and feel empowered to ask for help," Nina Day added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Phan also proposes a deeper study of risk and resilience to develop strategies that shift a person's risk of vulnerability toward being strong and surviving stress.

And a reminder that people experiencing a mental health crisis can receive immediate help by calling or texting 988.

Find additional mental health treatment centers and programs here.

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring AAA, Columbus-area and Ohio-based musicians, along with additional artists that inspire him.