GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There’s a new playbook for training high school athletes on mental health awareness.

The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan created the program using its be nice. model, training student athletes to recognize when a teammate is struggling with mental illness and then take action to help empower the player to seek treatment.

The women’s lacrosse team at Forest Hills Central High School was one of the first teams to undergo the training. Representatives with be nice. came to one of the team’s practices to give the presentation.

“I didn’t have any expectations about be nice. going into it, I didn’t really know anything about it,” junior Gabby Hendricks said. “But then being able to apply it outside of our own lacrosse practices was pretty crazy and eye-opening for me to be able to see how I really can use this in my own day-to-day life with my friends, even at school.”

Teammate Sophie Hartl said the training was a way to crush the stigma around mental health.

“It’s kind of hard to be talked about, especially in high school, but it’s something that a lot of people struggle with,” Hartl, a senior at Forest Hills Central, said.

Hendricks said as student athletes there are a lot of expectations from parents and the school about everything, from grades to sports.

The mental health training program was originally developed for coaches but it wasn’t long before schools began asking if players could also get involved.

“We’re really focused on creating a positive atmosphere, changing culture and I think the be nice. program does a really nice way of inviting people to um talk to each other,” Forest Hills Central High School Athletic Secretary Kristi Swayze said.

The program also teaches players to recognize their own potential risk factors and warning signs.

“I think a lot of times being an older player on the team or a captain, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with those positions and we think that we need to be the toughest ones on the team and they really articulated that those positions … have maybe more risk factors than other positions and that you might be more susceptible to mental health issues,” senior Julia Brown said.

The action plan encourages a player to start a conversation and challenge the stigma.

“Challenge them — that’s part of the be nice. initiative to say, ‘We can go get help together. I will help you in your process of finding help,'” Hendricks said. “This isn’t just like, ‘I’m going to go tell somebody,’ but, ‘We can go tell somebody together and I will help you through this process, because I do care about you and it’s not going to go away after I ask you how you are.'”

After completing the training, a team gets to suit up in special be nice. jerseys and take part in an awareness game. Forest Hills Central’s lacrosse team faced off against East Grand Rapids, another be nice. team, in an awareness game in April.

Other schools and teams have also participated in the training program and awareness games.

“I’ve had other coaches come and say, ‘How can we do this? How can we raise awareness with our teams?'” Swayze said.

Christy Buck, executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, said the ball is just getting rolling as they look to expand the program next school year.