|Senators forward Colin Greening (left) believes it's important to have conversations about youth mental health issues, something he'll be doing plenty of as the chairman of the Power To The Purple initiative launched today at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (Getty Images).
As a seventh-round draft pick, Colin Greening
has overcome many challenges on the road to living his National Hockey League dream.
Now the Ottawa Senators rookie forward is lending his name to dealing with an even more important obstacle.
The 25-year-old Newfoundland native is this year's "champion" of the Power To The Purple Challenge, an initiative being launched by Do It For Daron, a youth-driven program focused on raising awareness and inspiring conversations about youth mental health. Giant Tiger is the presenting sponsor for the Purple Challenge.
D.I.F.D. was created by the friends and family of Daron Richardson, the 14-year-old daughter of Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson, who took her own life in November 2010. Its primary goal is to transform the stigma that has long been associated with mental health issues.
Greening was introduced this morning by Stephanie Richardson, Luke's wife, as the spokesman for the Power To The Purple Challenge during a media event held at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. It is a cause whose importance can't be understated, he said.
"I think it’s a really great cause," said Greening, who was approached by the Richardsons about taking on the ambassador role. "For people who don’t know a lot about D.I.F.D. and youth mental health, it’s a very sensitive subject. One of the big reasons why I got involved is because I, like many people in society, don’t really know how to talk about it.
"We’ve all been affected by it in some way or another, but I think learning about it is the best part. When Luke and Stephanie asked me to get involved, I was more than happy to do so."
The Power To The Purple Challenge runs throughout the month of February, with schools, corporations and individuals within the community encouraged to hold conversations and raise funds to aid youth mental health research, education and suicide prevention. Next Tuesday, students in Ottawa-area schools are being encouraged to wear purple to help raise awareness about the issue.
"D.I.F.D. and the Power To The Purple's biggest message is about youth mental health," said Greening. "They want to make sure that everyone understands that there’s always an avenue open for you. A lot of people feel like ‘is this just me?’ But it’s not just you and the most important thing is, you have to find someone you trust and that you can talk to.
"A lot of people who are depressed feel like they have no way out, but D.I.F.D. is really trying to promote the message that yes, there are avenues you can pursue and there’s always something that you can do and someone you can talk to."
Greening believes youth today face more pressures than ever, in great part because of the growing prevalance of social media as a forum for communication.
"With the way youth are growing up ... I feel like there’s a lot more pressure on kids these days," he said. "Everyone wants to be that much prettier or better and things like that. But someone can blog about anything or write anything on Facebook that can affect someone’s self-esteem. Kids these days have it harder than a lot of us when we were growing up, because we didn’t really have the Internet and social media.
"(Youth mental health) is definitely a subject that hasn’t been talked about too much and the reason I believe it's that way is that it’s such a hard subject to talk about. There’s a lot of different views about it and you tread a thin line sometimes when you talk about it. I’m preaching to people ‘get out there and talk about it’ and even though it’s hard, be willing to talk about it and try to learn as much as you can. Just being able to hold a conversation … sometimes, that’s half the battle, having that conversation and having people walk away with a positive attitude about it."
On Saturday, the Senators and the Sens Foundation will hold their second annual Bell Sens Youth Mental Health Night in support of D.I.F.D. during the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place. Fans are encourage to show their support by contributing to a collection that will be made during the night or by purchasing special D.I.F.D. merchandise that will be on sale.
In 2009, the Sens Foundation made a $100,000 pledge to the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health to support its early identification and intervention program for youth.
For more information about D.I.F.D. or the Power To The Purple Challenge, log on to www.doitfordaron.com