Athletes are people too.
In fact, hockey players are just the same as us, except they are exceptionally talented at playing a game involving a small piece of rubber the size of a McDonald's hamburger.
In recent years, three members of the hockey community have been taken from us due to mental illness. Wade Belak, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard all passed away far too early. All of them lost their lives in 2011.
All three players were labeled as grinders/enforcers. Any scouting report on the them would not read akin to that of Sidney Crosby. Beyond the history of ferocious body blows and face punching lied underlying symptoms of depression and alcoholism, which many members of society struggle with.
The problem that encompasses mental health is that many succumb to stigma surrounding the issue. To make this perfectly clear: having a mental health issue does not make you crazy. People who struggle feverishly with the subject aren't seeking attention or choose to be depressed.
I do not struggle with mental health problems personally. Sure, there are times where I have been sad for durations of time and questioned my worth, but that is in no way tantamount to the realm of depression and others issues that many people all around the world face. I am luckily enough to be surrounded with great friends and a loving family, who will support me no matter the endeavor. A group of people that you love and can trust is undeniably and unequivocally the most important thing in the world. I do have friends and know people who struggle with mental health issues, so I am not just arbitrarily jotting down uninformed thoughts down.
The entire process is based upon listening, learning, and talking. When struggling with these issues, don't be afraid to talk with someone. This person isn't the same for everyone; for some, teachers, coworkers, or a psychiatrist is the preferred person to talk to. For others, a trusted friend or loved one is perfect so that they can discuss what is on their mind.
On January, Bell Canada promised to donate five cents for any tweet or text message using #Bellletstalk to mental health and wellness resources. Its goal was to spur conversation surrounding mental health and end the stigma around the issue. All in all, $6,295,764.75 was raised, which is incredibly impressive.
However, the conversation cannot end on January 27. As a society, we need to continue to educate ourselves and others on these issues and continue to start dialogues around mental health. Instead of using derogatory language intended to hurt others, why not cut those words out of your vocabulary? Lend an ear and listen to people instead of arousing a feisty debate.
Mental health is a real illness, one that is diagnosable and affects many people. It should not be laughed off as something that is bogus or fictitious, as it presents its own perils. It should be a year around type of ordeal, and while one day to shed light on the issue is good, there is room for improvement.
We remember the Belak, Rypien, Boogaard, and the countless other people who have lost their lives from mental health issues. Just because athletes are incredibly famous doesn't mean they are immune to real world, everyday issues. Don't forget, athletes are human too.
(By the way, this is the best thing ever:)