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The Washington Capitals are partnering with MedStar Health to promote Hockey Talks, to raise awareness and help end the stigma around mental health.

The Hockey Talks mental health awareness initiative began in 2013, following the tragic passing of Canucks player Rick Rypien in 2011. Rick was a hockey hero, a son, a brother, a teammate, and a friend. Rick's wish was to support others and help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness by being a spokesperson for this issue. The Capitals are among 15 National Hockey League teams hosting Hockey Talks this season.


Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable "highs" or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and having low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing "aches and pains")
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Symptoms of substance use disorder may include:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Loss of control over use of substances
  • Developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling like you need a drug to be able to function


  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year (47.6 million in 2018)
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016 (7.7 million)
  • 9.2 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance abuse disorder in 2018
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34
  • Less than half (43%) of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018
  • The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years
  • 70.4% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosed mental illness
  • High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers
  • People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population


  • Talk to someone (friend, family member, professional). Do not keep this to yourself.
  • Reach out to your health insurance, primary care doctor or state/country mental health authority for more resources
  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately
  • For substance abuse, support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are a great source of not only support, but also specialist referrals and recovery tips

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness