A team of female hockey players from the AA midget level Sault Wildcats is likely more equipped to speak openly about mental health and suicide prevention courtesy a newly-developed partnership with the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The Wildcats midgets are said to be the first competitive amateur female hockey team in Ontario to adopt the Talk Today program, which has a repute of being one of Canada’s most comprehensive sports mental health programs via the CMHA.
As part of Talk Today, the Wildcats players recently participated in a workshop that teaches individuals the importance of talking about mental health, how to acknowledge signs of suicide, seeking help when they’re in need of support, and connecting others in need of support to suicide first aid resources.
Wildcats coach Jeremy Stevenson, who starred in the Ontario Hockey League with the Soo Greyhounds during the 1993-1994 season before going on to a pro career that featured more than 200 games at the National Hockey League level, outlined the importance of Talk Today and subsequent workshops and programs.
“This program is very important to the coaching staff, parents and the players. I have had several friends in hockey that have taken their lives and others that are battling with mental health or addictions,” relayed Stevenson. “I have also had a friend at the age of 16 take her life. If this training was available at the time, maybe, just maybe, someone would have picked up on her invitations (signs) and could’ve helped her.”
Elissa Plastino, who is the president of the Sault Female Hockey Association that oversees the Wildcats, gave her thoughts on the initiative taken by Stevenson and his team.
“I applaud Jeremy and his coaching staff for bringing this program to their players,” Plastino began. “Mental health awareness is important and if an athlete is suffering, they may be more open to talking to a teammate or trusted coach.
“Our midget AA players now have the tools they need to help a teammate, school friend, or even recognize signs in themselves that will make them more comfortable to reach out,” Plastino continued. “I am hoping that this is just the start and that it will evolve it into a larger partnership between the CMHA and SFHA.”
Lisa Carricato, who serves as the mental health coach for the Sault Ste. Marie branch of the CMHA, offered a round of applause on behalf of the CMHA.
“We applaud Jeremy Stevenson and the Sault Female Hockey Association for wishing to support the mental health and well-being of the girls who play in the organization,” said Carricato.