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Brock University partners with CMHA Niagara to pilot and evaluate their sports mental health program, Talk Today

(St. Catherines, Nov. 16, 2023) – Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Niagara and Brock University have established a new partnership to pilot and evaluate CMHA’s Talk Today program – one of the most comprehensive mental health programs for amateur sports in Canada – with varsity student athletes.

During the fall semester, more than 50 Brock athletes from the women’s rugby and men’s soccer teams participated in the pilot. As part of this Talk Today pilot, the teams received mental health and suicide prevention education and were paired with mental health coaches to provide support to any of the athletes in need of additional help throughout the season. Support from a mental health coach comes from two sources: on-campus from the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC) and off-campus from a CMHA Niagara staff member.

CMHA Ontario and CMHA Niagara are also working with kinesiology professor and co-director of the Centre for Healthy Youth Development through Sport, Dr. Philip Sullivan, and graduate students Mishka Blacker and Joshua Celebre, to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. Their research focuses on the impact the program has on mental health literacy and help-seeking behaviour. This research is generously supported by grant funding from Mitacs.

“My team’s experience with the program was very positive. The mental health program benefited us throughout our season as it showed us the struggles we go through as varsity athletes, and that we are never alone,” said Abbie Wade, captain, Brock women’s rugby. “It helped us balance and manage mental struggles while also being a student during season. The program taught us how to provide resources to someone who is struggling to ensure everyone has the help they need. Moving forward into the off-season, we hope to keep learning about mental health and how to keep our team environment a safe space for everyone.”

“Our groundbreaking partnership with CMHA Niagara introduces the Talk Today program, addressing mental health challenges in varsity sports,” said Melissa Krist, Brock Sports and Recreation executive director. “This collaborative effort emphasizes our commitment to evidence-based mental health promotion. Join us on Nov. 16 at the Walker Complex to raise awareness and foster dialogue on mental well-being in sports.”

“We’re excited to be partnering in this work, which brings mental health awareness and support to athletes at Brock,” said Tara McKendrick, CMHA Niagara executive director. “We’re proud to be part of the growth of the program and its demonstrated impact on strengthening mental wellness in Niagara.”

“We want to thank our partners for collaborating with us to promote student athlete mental health on campus,” said Mehroon Kassam, student health services and personal counselling manager. “This is a great opportunity to not only support our student athletes, but also remind all students that help is available both on campus and through CMHA Niagara.”

In addition to supporting athletes, CMHA Niagara, SWAC and Brock Athletics are using their platforms during digital health week Nov. 13-19 to promote mental health services available to all students on and off campus. 

Students wanting to learn more about services can visit a dedicated kiosk on campus in the Walker Complex across from the Hungry Badger Nov. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They can also learn more at brocku.ca/health-wellness-accessibility or niagara.cmha.ca.

Originally launched by CMHA Ontario in partnership with the Ontario Hockey League in 2014, Talk Today provides an important opportunity to address the mental health needs of athletes across the province and across Canada. Since its inception, Talk Today has grown to support the two highest levels of junior hockey, the Canadian Hockey League and Canadian Junior Hockey League, while continuing to see expansion in post-secondary institutions and minor sports organizations.

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