A mental health program developed by the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Canadian Mental Health Association is spreading to junior-A leagues right across Canada.
It’s called “Talk Today”. Mark Lionello of the Cochrane-Timiskaming CMHA says one key element deals with suicidal symptoms.
He says coaches, players and billets are taught to recognize them, and get past the stigma that talking about it makes you weak.
“The other thing is that for a long time and I think it might still be prevalent, suggests that if you start talking about suicide, it actually pushes someone to that. It really is the opposite,” Lionello remarks. “The more you’re able to talk about it, the more likely you may be able to prevent it or at least reach out to someone to help them get support.”
Lionello also notes that there’s a lot for teenaged hockey players to handle.
“For a lot of them, they’re in a community that’s not their own, living with people that they hadn’t met before. There’s a fair amount of pressure to perform at that level as well.”
The NOJHL has had “Talk Today” for the past four years, developing it from a program in the major junior OHL.
The Hearst Lumberjacks play in the NOJHL.