Former NHL players team up to break down mental health barriers for young athletes
There’s a new top line for a team that’s about to battle mental health issues in sports.
Social worker Shawn O’Grady, along with former NHL players Bob Wilkie and Kelly Hrudey, are about to head out on a 10-city Canadian tour to teach young male and female athletes the skills they need to deal with depression and anxiety.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), one in five Canadians deal with mental health issues. Hrudey says coaches of all teams need to be aware of that when they look in their dressing rooms.
“If there’s a hockey team–boys or girls–out there that has 20 members, that means at least four members are suffering in some way,” Hrudey said. “Sometimes you can get through it but sometimes it’s completely debilitating for some people.”
Hrudey’s daughter Kaitlin was diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder when she was in Grade 7, which opened his eyes to the importance of talking about her issues. When he was young, he said those things weren’t talked about.
“You think back to my time, growing up, and nobody ever shared stories about mental health issues,” Hrudey said “‘How dare you?’ That’s what your family most likely would’ve said… ‘Don’t embarrass us.’ We’ve come along way now; everybody’s talking about it.”
Wilkie grew up playing hockey in Calgary. While in the WHL, he survived the Swift Current Broncos Bus crash in 1986 that killed four of his teammates.
After years of suffering, he founded the support group “I Got Mind” and has asked Hrudey to join him on an upcoming mental health coaching and speaking tour.
“Every time you’re in front of a group and you’re sharing your story, you feel better about your story–it’s very healing,” Wilkie said. “Seeing the looks on the faces of the people you’re talking to–you can see there’s a sense of relief in the crowd and that’s the biggest reward you can get.”
Hrudey and Wilkie have both written books in recent years. Hrudey says he was blown away at Wilkie’s book reading.
“I went to the reading when his book was launched and it was a very emotional night,” Hrudey said. “He shared a lot of stories that were very difficult for him. I thought, ‘Boy, what a brave guy’ and so whenever he’s contacted me about helping out, it’s a very easy decision.”
The “I Got Mind” mental coaching tour starts Oct. 18 in Calgary. For more information, visit IGotMind.ca.
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