By Linda Scales
Over the next few weeks, uOttawa student-athletes will be supporting two separate mental health initiatives the way they know best — through varsity competition. The two Gee-Gees basketball teams, the two hockey teams and the women's volleyball team will be helping to raise awareness about mental health issues, which affect one in five Canadians at some point during their lifetimes.
Among the affected family members, colleagues and teammates is men’s hockey head coach Patrick Grandmaître.
“My family and I were dealt a hard blow with the passing of my older brother, who was battling mental health issues,” said Grandmaître. “I still get very emotional when I think of the struggle he had to go through.”
On Saturday, January 21, just four days before the annual Bell Let’s Talk mental health awareness day, the women’s volleyball team will play the McGill University Martlets; the men’s and women’s basketball teams will play the University of Guelph Gryphons at Montpetit Hall; and the women’s hockey team will face the Université de Montréal Carabins at the Minto Sports Complex.
Free thunder sticks and temporary tattoos will be given away and everyone will be encouraged to take photos and share them on social media on Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday, January 25.
The University of Ottawa and its athletes are among the 53 Canadian universities and 20,000 student-athletes fighting against the stigma of mental illnesses by joining the 2017 Let’s Talk Day initiative, which has Clara Hughes, Canada’s six-time Olympic medallist, as its national spokesperson. Since its start in 2010, Bell Let’s Talk has donated about $80 million to mental health programs in Canada.
Meanwhile, over at the Minto Sports Complex on Thursday, February 2, the Gee-Gees men’s hockey team, in partnership with The Royal, will co-host a Do It For Daron (DIFD) Mental Health Night as part of at its home game against the Carleton Ravens. The evening will feature an information booth, purple DIFD stickers on both teams' helmets, and the donation of all 50/50 lottery proceeds and food sales to DIFD at The Royal, one of Canada’s leading mental health care centres.
DIFD is a grassroots movement named after 14-year-old Daron Richardson, who died by suicide in 2010. Her death started a conversation about mental health, about getting young people to talk openly about mental illness and asking for help when they need it.
During the 2015–16 hockey season nearly 20 teams, from atom to the American Hockey League, hosted DIFD events at their games. Now, the uOttawa men are proud to be one of the teams trying to raise mental health awareness.
“I know it’s cliché to say, but if we can help one person, one family, avoid what my brother and my family have gone through, I will have honoured my brother Jean-Eric Grandmaître’s life the right way,” says the Gee-Gees coach.
Admission for all games starts at $4 (student price).