More than 40 coaches and trainers involved with minor sports organizations in the Greater Toronto Area are better equipped to address mental health issues among their players, thanks to a new training program offered by Canadian Mental Health Association, York and South Simcoe Branch. Over the course of three weekends, the CMHA branch offered the coaches a version of Mental Health First Aid, the popular Mental Health Commission of Canada program. But the branch’s trainings, carried out with support of the United Way, was unique because it focused specifically on youth and addressed additional elements such as eating disorders and self-harm.
The sports organizations that participated included the York Central Girls Hockey Association, York Region Soccer Association, Baseball Ontario and the Timberlane Tennis Club.
During the training, the coaches and trainers learned:
- the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and crisis situations
- how to assess the risk of suicide and/or harm among their players
- how to deliver effective interventions as a “lay person”
- about professional treatment and referral sources in the community
Knowing how to approach and deal with someone who as an anxiety disorder or other mental illness was empowering.
Response to the training was positive. For example, one participant said “knowing how to approach and deal with someone who as an anxiety disorder or other mental illness” was empowering.
Another acknowledged they can speak more openly about mental health, stating “I was a little apprehensive about the subject, but now feel reassured.”
There’s broad evidence that shows mental health intervention at a young age has positive outcomes. Consider that the total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million; but, once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80 percent of people affected. Furthermore, up to 70 percent of young adults report that mental health problems and illnesses began in childhood or adolescence.
Transition periods (e.g. high school, post-secondary school, initial employment), and the pressure for young people to succeed are significant triggers of depression and anxiety.
These are all reasons why CMHA York and South Simcoe Branch focuses on helping youth in the community. Sports coaches represent an important group that has the opportunity, as trusted adults, to reach out and help children and youth.