Talk Today now available nationwide
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) officially partnered on May 24, expanding the mental health and suicide-awareness program Talk Today.
The announcement, made at the CHL’s national championship tournament, the Memorial Cup, marks the first step towards linking each of the 60 major junior teams with a local CMHA branch to ensure every player has access to the mental health supports and resources. All 22 teams in the Western Hockey League and the 18 teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are participating to create a suicide-safe network within their respective leagues and clubs.
This mirrors the partnership between CMHA Ontario the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), which just completed its second season after being established in October 2014.
In just two years, CMHA Ontario branches and the 20 OHL teams have made a sizable impact. During that time, 670 players, 160 billets (members of local families that house players), and more than 85 coaches and front office staff have been trained in safeTALK, while eight coaches, 10 billets, three players and three office staff have taken ASIST. Both are accredited training programs designed to recognize persons with thoughts of suicide and how to take action.
The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and four local branches of CMHA in Ontario also launched Talk Today last December. In total, 183 players and 13 coaches across the league received safeTALK.
The program also recently expanded to student athletes, with CMHA Kenora Branch and Kenora Catholic District School Board collaborating on a pilot project to provide 75 high school student athletes with suicide prevention and mental health awareness training.
Talk Today also includes a community outreach portion. CMHA branches were permitted to assist at an OHL awareness game for their respective teams aiming at destigmatizing mental health issues. This season, those games were held in February and roughly 80,000 people attended to hear and receive positive messages about mental health. Nearly three million people were reached on social media as well using the hashtag #TalkToday.
Talk Today helps address an important concern of which hockey players are not immune. The number of 12- to 19-year-olds at risk for depression is a staggering 3.2 million. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24. And 70 percent of mental health problems are onset during childhood or adolescence.
Stay tuned for more details about Talk Today.
“Our partnership just makes sense. Each year, our branches provide mental health and addictions services, education and support to about 50,000 people, including children and youth, families and seniors. By implementing Talk Today, we’re helping to create a suicide-safer community within the OHL and reaching new audiences with a message that mental health is possible for all,” says Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario.
“Mental illness directly or indirectly affects everyone at some point in their life,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “We are pleased to partner with Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario with our program Talk Today to further enhance the playing environment for our student athletes.”
CMHA Mental Health Coaches
Each participating CMHA Branch will designate a Mental Health Coach that is directly tied to a local team. This individual will provide resources and supports the players as well as the people that surround them.
If a player is in need of support or if they observe a teammate in need of support, they can contact the CMHA Mental Health Coach. The coach will help provide referrals to mental health and addictions services and supports available within the local CMHA Branch or other organizations in the community. The CMHA Mental Health Coach will also help with referrals to mental health crisis intervention services, if necessary.
safeTALK Training for Players
A primary focus of Talk Today is to provide safeTALK, an accredited training program, to all players to help them be alert to persons with thoughts of suicide and learn how to take appropriate action.
Evidence has shown that this training teaches individuals to look beyond the tendencies that cause people miss, dismiss or avoid the subject of suicide; identify people who have thoughts of suicide; and learn how to connect a person who has thoughts of suicide to a caregiver for intervention.
ASIST training for the Players Support Network
CMHA will provide or facilitate ASIST (link to URL), an accredited training program, for individuals such as coaches, team staff or parents who provide support to the players. The training teaches people how to recognize individuals who are at risk and intervene to prevent the risk of suicidal thoughts becoming suicidal behaviors.
The key to suicide prevention are trained caregivers who are ready, willing and able to get involved with each individual at risk. By offering this training, CMHA is helping establish that vital support network.
OHL Mental Health Champions
In recognition of the tremendous leadership roles that members of each franchise already play within their local communities, the clubs will each name an OHL Mental Health Champion. These individuals can be players, coaches, managers, staff, parents, billeting parents or anyone else associated with the team.
They will act as a resource on mental health issues and help players connect with their local CMHA Mental Health Coach. Mental Health Champions will also help promote suicide awareness and mental health within their communities.
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