EDITORIAL: Men need to follow athletes’ lead when it comes to their mental health

Apr 3, 2024 | Editorial, OP-ED

The sporting world has seen men’s mental health as an important focus of conversation in recent months.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine announced on Jan. 28 that he had entered the NHL and NHL Players’ Association player assistance program.

In a statement on his Instagram page, Laine said he needed to prioritize his mental health by temporarily stepping away from hockey.

“Hockey has been my passion and my life, but I have come to realize that in order to perform at my best, I need to take this time to focus on myself,” he said in his statement.

Laine has not been the only NHL athlete to seek help from the player assistance program.

Colorado Avalanche defenceman Samuel Girard announced on Nov. 24, 2023, that he had entered the program for mental health reasons.

He said in a statement through his agency the decision was to seek treatment for his battle with severe anxiety and depression.

“I have made a proactive decision to take care of my mental health,” he said in his statement.

The mental conversation among male athletes has spread further than just hockey.

Ricky Rubio, a 12-year NBA veteran, announced on his X account that he had retired from the league on January 4, after pausing his NBA career on July 31, 2023, due to struggles with his mental health.

Rubio said that between the time he stopped his professional career and the time he announced his retirement, he had seen improvement in his mental health.

“One day, when the time is right, I would love to share my full experience with you all so I can help support others going through similar situations,” he said.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, male athletes have stepped up and opened a long-needed dialogue surrounding men’s mental health by simply seeking the support they needed themselves.

Statistics Canada said men and boys fall into the higher risk category for suicide in Canada.

A study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada supports this StatCan report.

“Of the estimated 4,000 suicide deaths in Canada each year, close to 75 per cent are men,” the study said.

Statistics Canada said the rate is three times higher than that of women in Canada.

Support doesn’t need to look as grand as an NHL players’ assistance program. It can be much more practical and accessible to the average Canadian man.

Another Statistics Canada report found there were positive impacts when men have someone to support them in their mental health.

The report showed of the male respondents who said they have always or often had someone to count on, 55 per cent rated their mental health as at least very good.

When men did not have that support system, only 38 per cent said they had very good or excellent mental health.

The data shows support can make a difference in the lives of Canadian men and their mental wellness.

Canadian men need to follow the lead professional athletes have shown and not be hesitant in seeking help when needed and supporting those who need help.

This way we can end the stigma surrounding men’s mental health once and for all.