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Cancer Research Classic to Help Promote Mental Health

Seminar at Oglebay is free to parents, students

WHEELING — When Dr. Gregory Merrick established the Cancer Research Classic, he wanted to bring some of the nation’s premier high school basketball talent to the Ohio Valley.

But, the director of Wheeling Hospital’s Schifler Cancer Center also wanted to use basketball as a way to promote men’s health.

With the 12th annual event less than a month away, Merrick is using the CRC as a vehicle to help promote student-athlete well-being.

The inaugural ‘More Than a Game … The Untold Truth’ seminar will be held on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Oglebay Park’s Glessner Auditorium inside Wilson Lodge and is free and open to parents and students.

“We’ve spent a lot of time talking fundamentals, strength, physical health, but not a lot on mental health,” Merrick said. “And because of the changes in our society, mental health issues (in student-athletes) are increasingly prevalent.”

Merrick said high school atheletes are more likely to experience mental health problems by upwards of 20 percent over the non student-athlete.

“Often times, coaches, educators and even parents don’t identify (the problems),” Merrick said. “We live in a society where kids are told to ‘tough it out,’ but they can’t because they’re just kids. We need to be able to identify what can be done to help improve the mental health of young people.”

Along with the mental health issues, Merrick also indicated the evening will have a segment on drugs.

Merrick will be joined by a pair of speakers for the event.

New York Times Best Seller Alex Berenson, who authored ‘Tell your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence’ will be on hand as well as retired professional basketball player Ian Johnson, who wrote ‘The Bounce & The Echo … Dying to Love a Game.”

“I feel fortunate to be joined by two top-notch people,” Merrick said. “Ian Johnson played at Oak Hill Academy, Davidson and then five or six years of pro ball overseas.”

Merrick called Johnson’s book something “all young people and coaches should read.”

Barrenson, meanwhile, has been traveling the country speaking to groups of young people and adults.

“This is an evening that’s for any athlete, student, parent or even someone simply with an interest in mental health,” Merrick said.

According to Merrick, the event isn’t just aimed at high school athletes. Collegiate athletes are also encouraged to attend.

“We have one area college bringing its entire men’s and women’s basketball teams,” Merrick said. “We are extremely excited about (this program). It should be a highly educational night. We’re hopeful that we can some impact on changing perceptions and leading people in the right direction.

“There’s no better way to kick off the CRC.”

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