Ohio State Buckeyes: Ryan and Nina Day donate $1M to establish fund to improve mental health

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day and his wife, Nina, are donating $1 million to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to fund the fight against mental health struggles.

“We feel investing in the mental health of Buckeye Nation is a tremendous privilege,” Ryan Day said at a press conference Wednesday to announce the donation.

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Improving mental health has already been established as an important cause for Ryan Day, who lost his father to suicide when Day was 9 years old, and Nina, who said Wednesday she has battled anxiety throughout her life.

“It’s always been a passion of mine,” she said. “I’ve suffered from anxiety most of my life, and I suffered probably the roughest point of my life was in college and there were no resources, and I privately struggled. As I had children and growing up with Ryan, we just decided how important it was for them to grow up in a different world where if they experience any type of anxiety or depression that they had resources and they felt empowered to ask for help.”

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the medical center will house the new Nina and Ryan Day Resilience Fund.

“Your generous $1 million gift is transformative,” Dr. K. Luan Phan said to the Days.

Phan, a professor and chair of the department, noted establishing the new fund can be a conversation starter that leads to solutions.

“Resilience is not only the ability to bounce back, but to learn, adapt, thrive and do better than we had before,” Phan added. “Typically our department has taken care of people in the deep end. We’ll always be there to take care of people in the deep end.

“It’s more now important, as Coach Day knows really well, we can’t play defense all the time,” Phan added. “We need to take the offense, and to me resilience is really part of the offense game.”

Wexner Medical Center chief clinical officer Dr. Andrew Thomas said he could not think of a better word than resilience for the effort and thanked the Days for their donation.

In 2019, the Days contributed $100,000 to the formation of the Ryan and Christina Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in downtown Columbus.

Ryan Day said while that was aimed at removing the stigma of discussing mental health for young children, the Resilience Fund is intended to help teenagers and those who are college-age and older.

“It’s building resilience and building that strength to move forward,” he said.

“Certainly that college age is a tough stretch for a lot of people. They need the resources. They need the help, but then also identifying risk factors and getting out in front of it like Dr. Phan’s quote about trying to get out in front of this and not just responding.”

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