As part of its ongoing commitment to mental health, the Ontario Hockey League is making Talk Today a specific, month-long focus.
The OHL, in association with the Canadian Mental Health Association and Teachers Life, are teaming up to raise awareness about the importance of mental health during a number of games during the month of February.
The awareness campaign is part of the ongoing commitment by OHL clubs, local CMHA Ontario branches and Teachers Life to implement Talk Today.
Launched in October 2014, Talk Today provides mental health support to players and raises awareness about mental health and suicide throughout OHL communities.
“Since 2014 the Talk Today program has had a very positive impact in OHL communities, and has enhanced the playing environment for our student athletes,” relayed OHL commissioner David Branch. “Nobody is immune to mental health challenges and we’re proud to continue our partnership with CMHA Ontario and Teachers Life in hopes that Talk Today can help end the stigma.”
A key piece of the Talk Today program has been to educate players about mental health and suicide. Players on all 20 OHL teams have received mental health training specific to suicide awareness called safeTALK. This training helps teach individuals the importance of talking about mental health, how to acknowledge signs of suicide, seek help when they’re in need of support, and connect others in need of support to suicide first aid resources.
“Thanks to the leadership and support from the OHL and Teachers Life, the Talk Today program continues to have a lasting impact,” said Camille Quenneville, who heads up CMHA Ontario. “Together we have been able to help educate players, coaches, staff and fans about mental health and suicide prevention, encouraging them to speak openly about these serious issues.”
Since its inception, Talk Today has made a sizable impact in the OHL with over 940 players, 284 billets, 99 coaches and more than 47 front office staff receiving mental health and suicide prevention training to date.
The partnership has expanded to include a mental health awareness seminar as part of the OHL/Ontario Hockey Federation under-15 program of excellence since April, 2015, and is in the second season of a partnership with all 60 teams across the Canadian Hockey League.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with Teachers Life for a second straight season, OHL clubs continue to work alongside their local CMHA Ontario Branches for in-school visits communicating personal messages about mental health and stress management.
“Teachers Life is proud of our sponsorship of the OHL’s Talk Today program,” said Mark Cummings, who is the president of Teachers Life.
“We know that mental health is a real challenge facing today’s youth,” Cummings added. “When these athletes share their personal experiences they become role models by demonstrating that it’s okay — and important — to talk about personal mental health. Talk Today is a great program as it embodies the principles of awareness, dialogue and a community-based approach to dealing with this important issue together.”
Talk Today awareness games will take place in all 20 OHL markets with the support of their local CMHA Ontario Branch.
Even the OHL’s three American-based teams — Saginaw Spirit, Flint Firebirds and Erie Otters — will play host to Talk Today games in co-operation with CMHA Windsor-Essex County and CMHA Niagara.
PHOTO: OHL commissioner David Branch.