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 the CMHA to ensure every player has access to mental health supports and resources. All 22 teams in the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the 18 teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) are participating to create a suicide-safe network within their respective leagues and clubs.
This mirrors the partnership between CMHA Ontario and 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 their local 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, which teaches individuals the importance of mental health, how to recognize persons with thoughts of suicide and how to take action.
Additionally, eight coaches, 10 billets, three players and three office staff have taken ASIST, which teaches people how to recognize individuals who are at risk and intervene to keep individuals safe. Both safeTALK and ASIST are accredited training programs.
Talk Today also includes a community outreach portion. CMHA branches were permitted to assist at an awareness game for their respective teams aiming at destigmatizing mental health issues. This season, those OHL games were held in February and roughly 80,000 people attended to hear and receive positive messages about mental health. Nearly 3 million people were reached on social media as well using the hashtag #TalkToday.
Talk Today helps address an important concern to 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 the onset of 70 percent of mental health problems occurs during childhood or adolescence.