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Unmasking Stigma

by Kelsey Spohn / Edmonton Oilers



One in five Canadians. That’s how many Canadians, like you and me, are affected by mental health.

It’s also one of the motivating reasons why for the entire 2014-15 season, Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens has been championing mental health to raise awareness for mental health across Oil Country and beyond.

“Mental health issues affect everyone and there isn’t one group that’s hurt more or less by these mental health disorders,” said Scrivens. “One of the biggest things is trying to make our society one where people feel comfortable enough to admit that they’re going through something and that they need some help.”

To help achieve this awareness, Scrivens pioneered the Unmasking Stigma program with the support of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF). The netminder’s passion project saw Ben forge strong partnerships with two mental health groups, working directly with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta – Edmonton and the Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region (CMHA). With Scrivens’ support, two local artists living with schizophrenia, Richard Boulet and Marc Munan, designed two goalie masks that he donned during the season.

“Art, mental health and sport aren’t areas you’d normally link together, but Ben has given these artists a platform to spread their messages of hope and recovery in such a powerful way,” shared Natasha Nicholson, Branch Manager, Schizophrenia Society of Alberta – Edmonton.

In addition to raising awareness, each game-worn mask was auctioned off in the EOCF’s Hockey Talks Online Charity Auction to help raise funds for the two mental health groups. The EOCF matched half of the auction proceeds raised from the masks and on April 6, presented the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta – Edmonton and the CMHA each with a cheque in the amount of $16,224.

“Unmasking Stigma’s funds will enrich two of our programs, Peer Support Unsung Heroes and Youth Connections and provide our facilitator with greater opportunities to incorporate activities to encourage growth,” said Nicholson. “This is immensely important because typically those living with a mental illness are on a fixed or low income and cannot afford social or recreational activities that are vital for their wellness.”

The CMHA also has a home for its new funding and has been inspired by Scrivens’ advocacy for mental health.

“Ben has created an opportunity for people to connect and he’s given these two artists an extraordinary growth opportunity,” said Ione Challborn, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region. “CMHA’s mission is to make mental health matter and that’s exactly what Ben’s done. He has made mental health matter and he’s got people talking about it and wanting to support mental health in ways like never before.”

Even though Unmasking Stigma has wrapped up for this season, the EOCF is keeping mental health at the forefront of the conversation in Oil Country. On April 8, in partnership with CMHA, the EOCF launched help4me.ca. The website is devoted to providing information on mental health and mental illness to teens and young adults.

This is yet another step in the right direction as the EOCF, Ben Scrivens, the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta – Edmonton and CMHA aim to alleviate the stigma associated with mental health in Oil Country.

To learn more about mental health for teens and young adults, please visit help4me.ca. To learn more about the EOCF in the community, visit oilersfoundation.ca.

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