New program aims to address mental health issues among young hockey players

“In the past there was a big stigma with hockey players. They can’t express their feelings and can’t cry. But I think nowadays it’s open arms and I think it’s changing with all these great things, with Talk Today,” said Myles Mattila, a 16-year old hockey player from Kelowna. “We just want to eliminate that stigma that people can talk and can get help and make sure they’re not alone.”

Mattila has been a mental health advocate for years. He first started becoming aware of the issue of mental health among hockey players when he didn’t know how to help one of his teammates who was struggling with mental health issues and the passing of former Vancouver Canucks’ player Rick Rypien.

On Tuesday the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) BC Division and the BC Hockey League (BCHL) announced a new partnership and launch of an initiative called Talk Today.

This program is designed to help BCHL players and their supporters learn about mental health and increase their skills in order to help support players who may be struggling or at risk of suicide.

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Talk Today consists of components such as mental health and suicide awareness workshops, one-on-one mental health coaches and community awareness at BCHL games.

“When we first started, there was a few guys that we had come in right away and I thought that would be about it,” said Rob DeClark, chairman of BCHL’s Player Support Program. “And then over that first season, by the end of the season, I had every single player come and talk to me at some point and I started to realize that the need was much greater than I thought. I thought we had an obligation as a league to support our players better if we were going to have them move out to play in their league, be away from home, have the pressures of scholarships, these are the things they’re talking to me about. Parents putting pressure on them, the wins and losses, having a bad game.”

According to the CMHA, B.C. Division, about one in seven young people in the province will experience a mental illness at some point. Many show up before the age of 18, with the most common being anxiety disorders.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds in B.C., after motor vehicle accidents. About 3.5 per cent of young people in B.C. experience depression.

“As athletes we’re always taught to hold everything in, to keep things, to figure it out, to gut-check, to make sure we show that we’re strong when oftentimes we’re weak,” said John Grisdale, governor of the BCHL.

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To learn more about Talk Today, visit or join the conversation on social media using #talktoday.

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