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Hockey Talks an important subject for Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

I think the message that I’ve learned is whether you’re an athlete or not an athlete, young or old, it’s okay to go out and ask for help and make it known that you’re out there and reach for help. Mason Raymond

CALGARY, AB -- Need help? It's okay to ask.

The Calgary Flames will host their third annual Hockey Talks game Monday against the Winnipeg Jets to raise awareness to seek information and help in dealing with mental illness issues. The Flames, along with the six other Canadian National Hockey League franchises and their players, are bringing the difficult subject to the forefront.

It’s a subject that hits close to the heart for all members of the Flames, including winger Mason Raymond.

Raymond was close friends with Rick Rypien, whose death in August 2011 was preceded by a history of clinical depression.

“I was very close friends with Rick and I was lucky enough to break into the league with him and go through many situations with Rick,” Raymond said. “We were definitely close friends. I think the message that I’ve learned is whether you’re an athlete or not an athlete, young or old, it’s okay to go out and ask for help and make it known that you’re out there and reach for help.

“It’s okay to do that. Maybe it’s a tough thing to do but I think leaning on friends and family can be a big part of helping that.”

Throughout the month, players will sport Hockey Talks decals on their helmets, while playing in front of Hockey Talks rink boards in an effort to bring the cause, which sees one in five Canadians experience a mental health problem or illness in their lifetime, to the forefront.

The stigma attached to mental illness presents a serious barrier, not only to the diagnosis and treatment but also acceptance of the issue.

Matt Stajan hopes Hockey Talks can help to remove that.

“Our dressing room is so tight and guys are close and I think when guys have problems you sometimes keep it to yourself,” he said. “You don’t want it to become a distraction. I just think we’re proud individuals. I think it’s good that there’s a lot of awareness now. It’s unfortunate with what our league’s gone through these past few years but it’s important that we have an awareness now and its okay to talk about it.

"Going forward we’re doing something about it.”

Approximately 70 per cent of mental health problems and illnesses have their onset during childhood or adolescence. Identifying the signs early and getting connected to tools and support is the most important way to prevent problems from becoming worse.

More information available through the following websites: Mental Health Commission of Canada, Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

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