At the Ontario Hockey Association’s annual general meeting earlier this month, the organizing body announced they will launch a new training program titled “SafeTALK” to help tackle the issues of youth mental health and suicide.
The program, which will be brought to communities across Chatham-Kent, as the OHA governs the local Junior hockey teams, will aim to help team officials recognize individuals with thoughts of suicide, and connect them to suicide first aid resources, and community organizations.
“The OHA and its members are proud to announce what is a very positive step in proactively addressing the serious problem of youth mental health and suicide in our communities today,” said Scott Farley, OHA Chief Executive Officer in an official OHA Media Release. “Our Junior and Senior teams are a major part of the community fabric in over 100 Ontario communities and by taking a leadership role with this project, we want to demonstrate our commitment to providing resources and educational opportunities to our teams, our players, and also engage the communities in the conversation on this very important topic that in some way has touched each of us.”
The OHA, which overseas local teams including the Wallaceburg Lakers, Dresden Kings, Blenheim Blades, Wheatley Sharks, and Chatham Maroons, will deliver SafeTalk workshops to all 115 member teams over the next four seasons.
“One of the most devastating aspects of mental health and suicide is the stigma that prevents those suffering from seeking help. The OHA leadership is allowing us the opportunity to engage our youth and the community in a conversation about mental health and suicide that will change attitudes and ultimately save lives” says Cecilia Marie Flynn, a SafeTALK trainer and Program Coordinator for the Suicide Prevention Community Council of Hamilton in the OHA’s release.
The OHA expects to release further information about the program in the coming months.