Ridgebacks say ‘let’s talk’ at Sunday’s hockey games

(Left to right) UOIT Ridgebacks Chelsea Ball, Nicole Zabel, Sarah Biesenthal show their support for Bell Let's Talk Day. Photo credit: Courtesy of UOIT Athletics

The UOIT Ridgebacks are shooting for more conversations about mental health as part of their hockey games this Sunday.

In conjunction with the Bell Let’s Talk campaign supporting mental health awareness, UOIT is hosting hockey games to help the cause.

This marks the third straight year UOIT has staged “Bell Let’s Talk Games” at the Campus Ice Centre.

The men’s team will play the McGill Redmen at noon followed by the women playing the Windsor Lancers at 3:30 p.m.

Campus health services will be present at the game to give information on mental health and campus support systems in place for students and athletes.

“We don’t have a mental health nurse or counsellor in athletics, so generally speaking it is entirely on a case-by-case basis,” says Chris Cameron, sports information and special events coordinator for UOIT and Durham College. “We all get mental health training as a department and get shown what services are available on the Durham and UOIT campuses.”

According to Cameron, “what an athlete or student (who’s struggling) generally does is go to the person they feel most comfortable talking to…then we direct them to the proper service on campus and follow up and make sure they got the help they needed.”

The game will also have a booth set up for students to fill out cards to either share a mental health story, give tips for dealing with mental health issues or just write a positive note to someone who may need it.

The cards will be hung on the arena walls during the game and moved to the Campus Health and Wellness Centre afterward to be put on display until Jan. 31, which is officially Bell Let’s Talk Day. (The Ridgebacks don’t have another home game closer to the Bell date.)

Support of the mental health campaign is encouraged through Ontario University Athletics (OUA), according to Cameron, but is not mandatory. All of the materials such as hats, wristbands and cards to write on are provided by Bell Canada.

“The OUA really drove it and gave us the opportunity to create content (for Bell Let’s Talk) a lot more easily,” says Cameron. “They’re the ones who work with Bell to give us the proper messaging.”