Ryan and Nina Day press conference.jfif

Ryan and Nina Day

The Ohio State University head football coach, Ryan Day and his wife, Nina, donated $1 million to fund research and services that promote mental health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine in Columbus, according to an Aug. 3 news release. The Nina and Ryan Day Resilience Fund will be housed in the department of psychiatry and behavior health.

The gift is part of a large overall investment in students’ mental health over the past year that includes a $10.15 million pledge from The Jay & Jeanie Schottenstein Family Foundation to create the Jeffrey Schottenstein Program for Resilience that will support the Ohio State College of Medicine and students across campus. That pledge was approved last November. The gift funds an endowed chair in psychiatry and resilience in the college of medicine at OSU that is held by Dr. K. Luan Phan. He is also a professor and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at the college.

OSU President Kristina M. Johnson thanked the Days for the gift, saying that it sends an important message for young people in 2022.

“Supporting and building resilience in our fellow Buckeyes always has been a priority for Ohio State, but the past few years have made it more important than ever,” Johnson said. “I am so thankful to Nina and Ryan Day for their leadership and their generous gift. It will help us not only provide greater services and outreach, but to continue the fight against the stigma that too often discourages people in need from seeking help.”

The Days have been advocates for care and open discussions about mental health, a cause personal to Ryan, whose father died of suicide when he was 8 years old. Ryan began speaking out in 2018 after a recruiting trip to a high school that had experienced multiple recent student suicides. The trip led him to confront his long-suppressed pain.

Mental health support is a key pillar of the “Circle of Care” Day maintains for athletes in his program, with two full-time psychologists, two athletic counselors and a part-time psychiatrist on staff, according to the release.

As co-keynote speakers at Ohio State’s pandemic-delayed commencement in August 2021, Nina and Ryan both spoke of their own mental health struggles and urged graduates to find friends and loved ones who could bolster them in difficult times.

“Nina and I both understand how important it is to have someone you can turn to for help and strength in times of difficulty,” Ryan said. “Our hope is that this fund will allow more Buckeyes to find the support they need to become more resilient.”

Phan thanked the Days for “helping to dismantle the stigma of mental health challenges,” saying that dispelling stigma is essential to building resilience.

“With the support of champions like Nina and Ryan, we are quickly gaining ground and shifting the paradigm toward a positive outlook against adversity that includes hope, perseverance, courage and growth,” Phan said. “We hope their generous gift will inspire others to support this worthy cause.”

Abigail Preiszig is the Linda and Clifford Wolf Editorial Intern at the Columbus Jewish News.