The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) officially partnered on May 24, expanding the mental health and suicide-awareness program Talk Today. The announcement, made at the CHL’s national championship tournament, the Memorial Cup, marks the first step towards linking each of the 60 major junior teams with a local CMHA branch to ensure every player has access to the mental health supports and resources. All 22 teams in the Western Hockey League and the 18 teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are participating to create a suicide-safe network within their respective leagues and clubs.
This mirrors the partnership between CMHA Ontario the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), which just completed its second season after being established in October 2014.
In just two years, CMHA Ontario branches and the 20 OHL teams have made a sizable impact. During that time, 670 players, 160 billets (members of local families that house players), and more than 85 coaches and front office staff have been trained in safeTALK, while eight coaches, 10 billets, three players and three office staff have taken ASIST. Both are accredited training programs designed to recognize persons with thoughts of suicide and how to take action.
The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) and four local branches of CMHA in Ontario also launched Talk Today last December to help the league’s players, and the individuals that support them, identify mental health issues and address suicide.
The program also recently expanded to student athletes, with CMHA Kenora Branch and Kenora Catholic District School Board (KCDSB) collaborating on a pilot project to provide 75 high school student athletes with suicide prevention and mental health awareness training.
Talk Today also includes a community outreach portion. CMHA branches were permitted to assist at an OHL awareness game for their respective teams aiming at destigmatizing mental health issues. This season, those games were held in February and roughly 80,000 people attended to hear and receive positive messages about mental health. Nearly three million people were reached on social media as well using the hashtag #TalkToday.
Talk Today helps address an important concern of which hockey players are not immune. The number of 12- to 19-year-olds at risk for depression is a staggering 3.2 million. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24. And 70 percent of mental health problems are onset during childhood or adolescence.
Stay tuned for more details about Talk Today.