When he was 14, Myles Mattila played on a hockey team in Prince George, with a good friend who was battling depression.
Looking to help out, he told his coach.
The coach kicked his friend off the team.
“It was really hard to see what happened,” says Mattila, now 16 and playing for the Okanagan Rockets hockey team in Kelowna. “[He] just loved playing hockey and that wasn’t the right thing at all. All I wanted was for him to get help.
“He was in mental distress and he needed help and by kicking him off the hockey team wasn’t helping him at all.”
That incident, along with learning former Vancouver Canuck Rick Rypien committed suicide, inspired Mattila to take a greater interest in the mental health of young athletes.
“You gotta be an all-star, and if you don’t play at the top of your potential, it’s really tough because a lot of people are counting on you, and you want to make everybody happy,” he says.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says one in five people in Canada suffer from a mental illness. And while many young people keep their illness hidden because of the stigma, young men are particularly at risk.
Mattila became a representative for Mindcheck.ca, a government website designed to help young British Columbians identify any mental health issues they may have, and point them to resources that can help.
“[It’s] all confidential and you could go on the website and take a few quizzes and learn about yourself and see what’s really going on inside,” he says.
Mattila is also taking part in a community bike ride on June 21 called Ride Don’t Hide, which benefits the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“I’ll be riding with my team [at Mindcheck] and hopefully I could get some riders out there to support mental health,” he says.
It’s a lot for a teenager to balance. But Mattila is driven.
“I just want to be an advocate for mental health and speak for people that can’t speak,” he says.
“I want to make sure they know that they’re not alone.”