by Kirk Jessome
Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or culture. Starting a conversation is the first step in finding help.
Today is Bell Let’s Talk day, a national campaign that encourages all Canadians to have a conversation about mental health and help end the stigma associated with mental illness. Bell helps to further the cause each year by donating 5 cents to mental health research for each text or phone call made on a Bell phone, as well as the use of the Bell Let’s Talk hashtag on social media throughout the day.
The Dalhousie Tigers look to help further the cause each year as they host a hockey game celebrating the Bell Let’s Talk program, and for the players, it is an honour to be involved.
Fifth-year hockey player Luke Madill has been a part of the game for as many years, and says that the Tigers are happy to be able to help the cause.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to be a part of a very successful campaign,” says Madill. “A lot of people are affected by mental health issues, so to be a part of their cause in any way is a very fortunate experience for us.”
To Madill, positive mental health is all about finding a balance.
“There are always going to be demands related to work, school, athletics, family and friends,” he explains. “If you become fixated on one aspect, life can start to fall out of balance. It’s important to give attention to every part of your life, while still taking time for yourself.”
Madill also emphasized that the awareness of mental health issues should extend beyond the weeks surrounding the Bell Let’s Talk event if we are to continue to make a difference.
“I think if we want to further remove the stigma, it’s important to make a conscious effort to be aware of mental health issues in all of our interactions and activities during the entire year, and not just the weeks surrounding Bell Let’s Talk.”
Mental health is a priority for student-athletes who have a lot of pressure on them to perform and succeed. More and more of them are coming forward to share their stories to get help and to end the stigma.
First-year soccer player Olivia MacIntyre is making the transition from high school to collegiate athletics, which is very often a difficult one.
“It’s easy to get into a routine and sometimes I catch myself going through the motions and not feeling like myself,” says MacIntyre. “It’s important to take time each day to step back and take time for yourself. Mental health should be just as important as your physical health.”
The most common theme when talking to athletes about mental health is the use of a personal support system, which is summarized by MacIntyre.
“Your family and friends are the best resource, don’t stay silent, start the conversation!”
The Bell Let’s Talk hockey game will take place January 31st, as the Tigers host l’Université de Moncton at the Halifax Forum, with puck drop at 7:00. The game will also be televised on TV1.