Since Talk Today’s introduction to the CJHL in September 2019, a total of 29 teams across the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), Northern Ontario Hockey League (NOJHL), Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), and Maritime Hockey League (MHL) have received suicide prevention training. This includes suicide-prevention training for 621 players, 10 coaches, four trainers, 15 billets, and three additional team staff members.
Additionally, despite significant challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Talk Today successfully expanded into the AJHL and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) in 2020. Public health restrictions prohibited in-person suicide-prevention training in the AJHL and SJHL but the leagues and its teams were able to develop relationships with local offices of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Because of this relationship-building, CMHAs in Alberta and Saskatchewan were able to support player safety and wellbeing in other ways.
Just as it has affected everything else, COVID-19 has presented significant challenges throughout the CJHL and severely impacted the implementation of the Talk Today program. In an ordinary year, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) staff at both Ontario Division and branches across the country would have been busy working with leagues in the CJHL, servicing over 90 teams and approximately 2,000 junior hockey players during this phase of Talk Today implementation process. The pandemic, however, has impacted not only the delivery of the suicide prevention training component of the program, but the Talk Today game day events as well.
safeTALK is a globally–recognized suicide prevention training that educates participants on how to prevent suicide by recognizing signs, engaging someone, and connecting someone in need to life-saving resources. The workshop is three hours in duration and incorporates a visual presentation, in addition to participant engagement and open discussion.
In spite of challenges through the 2020-21 hockey season, CMHA branches across five jurisdictions managed to work with league and club partners to conduct safeTALK.
Since the beginning of Talk Today, another measure of the program’s impact is emphasized through a variety of anecdotes that illustrate the support Talk Today has provided players, team staff and executives.
While this past year CMHA branches and local teams were unable to participate in game day events together. We are looking forward to continuing to work with teams to promote positive mental health in communities across Canada.
CMHA branches and participating leagues and teams share social posts including #TalkToday to continue to raise awareness beyond their local communities. The social media posts usually centre around the designated game day month for participating leagues. While we were unable to focus this component around gamedays this past year, our news releases launching in the SJHL and AJHL generated considerable social media buzz. On Twitter, #TalkToday was able to generate a reach of over 95,000 and received 219,000 impressions.
We look forward to continuing to work with leagues and teams to support positive mental health on social.
In November 2019, #TalkToday reached 175,000 users (151,000 in English, 24,000 in French) on Twitter, with 1.1 million impressions. From September 2019, #TalkToday had reached a total of 1.6 million users in English and nearly 142,000 in French, for a total of 1.74 million.
A Barrie Colts (OHL) player was put in touch with CMHA Simcoe County for support after being informed he would be sent down to Rayside (NOJHL). As both organizations have implemented and participate in Talk Today, the player continued to receive support through the transition and the days following.