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Former Humboldt Bronco opens up about mental health: ‘It’s OK to not be OK’

WATCH: It's been almost a year and a half since the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan that took the lives of 16 people. Since then, many of the survivors of the crash have had to deal with challenges both physically and mentally. Erin Chalmers sits down with former Broncos player, Leduc native Tyler Smith.

April 6, 2018 is a day that will forever be etched in Tyler Smith’s mind. And yet, it’s a day he doesn’t remember.

In fact, the former Humboldt Broncos player doesn’t remember anything until a few days after the crash. He woke up in hospital, surrounded by family and friends and faced with the realization he had lost 16 of his friends.

READ MORE: ‘Still so much pain’: Humboldt and the Broncos continue to heal 1 year after crash

From that day forward, life has not been easy.

He suffered eight different injuries, went through two surgeries and spent 13 days in hospital. Once he was able to return back home to Leduc, he was on constant medication for the pain, going from one doctor’s appointment to another, trying to get back to his old state, both physically and mentally.

He’s now realized that will probably never happen.

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“The physical injuries I can get through,” said Tyler, during an interview on the Global Edmonton Morning News.

“The mental and emotional injuries are still going to be there for the rest of my life.”

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Tyler was 20 years old at the time of the crash. It took some time for him to realize he needed to open up and talk about what happened and how it was affecting him.

READ MORE: Grief and sadness an obstacle for many after Humboldt Broncos crash

“It took me a little while. I’m still maturing and growing, so it took me a while to actually understand that I needed to talk about things. But after I opened up and was able to share things with the loved ones around me, and with help, I think it’s beneficial. Absolutely.”

Watch below (April 19, 2018): Tyler Smith, a young hockey player from Leduc who survived the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6, attended a game put on by the community Thursday to support him and his family.

Humboldt Bronco Tyler Smith attends hockey game in Leduc put on in his honour
Humboldt Bronco Tyler Smith attends hockey game in Leduc put on in his honour

Tyler recently opened up about his mental well-being in an article in Unsinkable, a story-sharing platform hosted by four-time Olympian Silken Laumann.

“For the most part, I think it’s just a reminder for some people that it really is OK to not be OK,” Tyler said.

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“In today’s society, especially my generation, it’s such a hard thing to grasp and to actually take into account that you’re not OK.”

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“So hopefully, just to be able to inspire others to come forward and give hope to others that it’s OK and you can talk about it and you can go to the people around you.”

Tyler also credits the love and support he has from the people around him for helping him get to where he is now.

READ MORE: Humboldt Broncos unveil 29 banners to honour victims of bus crash

“The support has been incredible still, so I’m doing well. It’s one day at a time and one lesson at a time. For the most part, I think it’s just being able to grasp that you need to take this into account every day of your life and, especially for people growing up and maturing, you need to take care of yourself every day.”

It’s a message Tyler says is echoed among the 13 other survivors of the bus crash.

Watch below (April 16, 2018): Former WHL star Kieran Block was playing with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, when a cliff-diving accident shattered his legs. In light of the Humboldt crash, he joined Erin Chalmers to talk about the mental and physical road to recovery, which is also detailed in his book “The Ups and Downs of Almost Dying.”

Former hockey player on recovering after debilitating injury
Former hockey player on recovering after debilitating injury

“I think with our situation, all of us know we need to take care of ourselves — and whether that’s individually or as a group — I think we’re all able to grasp that idea and put it into fruition.”

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Now Tyler is focusing on his future. He’s currently enrolled in NAIT’s Radio & Television Program and is hoping to one day be able to do some public speaking.

“I’d love to keep inspiring and keep giving people that hope.”

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Tyler will also be participating once again in Movember this November, helping raise money for men’s mental health.