Andy Katz: NCAA Reporter/Analyst/Host, Marathon Runner, and Mental Health Advocate
Andy reached out to NAMI-UW in preparation for his most recent marathon, the Chicago Marathon, completed on October 8th, 2023. In combination with his passion for sports and community outreach, Andy has become increasingly passionate about mental health in recent years, prompting his drive to partner with NAMI-UW and our Green Bandana Project.
With his partnership, Katz promised to run his race with a green bandana tied to his running belt in support of UW/s Green Bandana Project. The Green Bandana Project is a wonderful tribute to those at any step in their own mental health journeys, a sign that no one is ever alone in their experiences. By tying a bandana to their backpacks, students aim to spread awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding anxiety and other mental health issues.
In looking towards Andy’s story, he shared with us that his first experience with severe anxiety began around 1995, approximately five years following his graduation from UW-Madison. For over four years, he found himself in and out of doctors’ offices, thinking his symptoms and thoughts of mortality were associated with a potential heart or brain issue. He went through a number of MRIs, CAT scans, even wearing a heart monitor under his shirt while covering a game, checking with the team’s Atlethic Trainer at half time to see if where was anything wrong. But alas, his physical health was perfectly fine. Everything Andy had been experiencing had been panic related.
While Andy shared that his experience with anxiety began primarily in his 20s, he has witnessed friends and family experience its effects for decades, explaining that “It’s time to normalize the condition”. In seeing that the reduction of stigma has come a long way, Andy is the first to recognize that there is a long way to go— especially in the world of sports— “In my sports world, it’s common to say a player has a sprained ankle, but we don’t say player X had to miss a practice or a game due to anxiety or any other mental health crisis — be it long term or acute”. There is such a discrepancy between what is seen as an ‘acceptable’ reason for missing any sort of sports performance, and Andy hopes to be a part of the group to change that.
“The pandemic created a full blown crisis and schools desperately need to hire mental health professionals in droves at all institutions” Andy shared. “We need to be each other’s ally and try to de-stress the world around us”.
Our world is one of many problems, big or small as they may be. While a perfect world may relieve each and every one of us from these stressors, a more appropriate reality is to learn how to communicate about and cope with them in our own time. Each of us has our own path to follow, and with support systems along the way those stepping stones may appear to be even just a bit more attainable. You are appreciated, you are worthy, and you are loved— remember that. Thank you for being here.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.