Calgary post-secondary students play hockey for mental health

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WATCH: A fourth-year University of Calgary student and some of his closest friends gathered Sunday afternoon to play hockey and destroy the stigma around mental health. As Jessie Weisner reports, they’re trying to create stronger bonds and stronger conversations – Dec 29, 2019

Playing hockey with friends is a typical pastime in Calgary but a group of young people did it for a different reason this Sunday.

Austen Cabunoc decided to use the game to fundraise for student mental health awareness.

“I hope it creates a conversation, a more positive conversation. All of us here are really close and I hope we can talk to one another about that,” Cabunoc said.

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Cabunoc is a fourth-year student in the community rehab and disability program at the University of Calgary. He recently completed a research project on how university students perceive mental health.

“What we kind of got back was that a lot of the reasons why these mental health resources weren’t used or accessed were because of the negative [stigma] around mental health,” said Cabunoc.
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As a result, Cabunoc had the idea to host the Keg Cup to fundraise for mental health and help create a conversation among his friends. Each player pays at least $20 to participate, and the winning team wins the keg.

Two attendees hold up the keg prized to the winning team. Devon Simmons/Global News

All of the proceeds go to the Canada Mental Health Association. Cabunoc also launched a GoFundMe page, which he has shared on social media.

“Even me talking about it or all my friends talking about it makes everyone see that it is OK and it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” said Cabunoc.

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A 2019 report by the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services on mental health found that 34.6 per cent of post-secondary students said anxiety affected their academic performance, 24.2 per cent said depression did and 41.9 per cent said stress did.

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READ MORE: Post-secondary schools focus on mental health as students feel the stress

“If you’re dealing [with] something, just talk about it. Even with my own self, dealing with anxiety, just talk about [it]. You feel a lot better,” said Tony Festa, a participant and third-year SAIT student.

“Spreading awareness for mental health is something that hits literally everyone. Everyone has been affected — not just themselves but people they know.”

The Keg Cup, a game organized to fundraise for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Devon Simmons/Global News

“If you’re not personally affected, you either know someone directly or they know someone directly that is,” said participant and U of C student Alyson MacDougall.

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The fundraiser has a goal of $1,000, and Cabunoc said he hopes the event will inspire others to do the same.

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