It was a special game night at the West Central Events Centre last Friday. The Kindersley Jr. Klippers hosted the Nipawin Hawks for the "Talk Today" game in Kindersley, a nationwide initiative through the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In partnership with the Canadian Junior Hockey League, February is "Talk Today Month". After spending time with the Klippers earlier in the week performing some mental health training, CMHA Rosetown Program Director Carmen Ledding was eagerly awaiting Friday night's puck drop.

"We had a fabulous night last Friday with our "Talk Today" awareness game with the Kindersley Klippers." exclaimed Ledding, who was quite literally the one to drop the puck on the night.

After dropping the puck, Ledding took the mic to sing O'Canada.

"I typically sing the national anthem for senior Redwings games in Rosetown." said Ledding full of glee. "I did the puck drop, then I turned around and sang the national anthem! I am happy to do things like that, I am a singer by nature, and actually a private music teacher as well. I was lucky enough to sing the Finnish national anthem (at the world juniors in Saskatoon)." she finished.

Carmen Ledding puck drop.jpg Ledding dropped the puck before last Friday's game, and then graciously accepted the honours of singing the national anthem (Photo via Kindersley Klippers on Facebook)

Back to the fact of the matter, the game showcasing mental health reached people far-and-wide on social media, a response that warmed Ledding's heart.

"(The puck drop) was featured on social media, and it spread like wildfire across west-central Saskatchewan. It was awesome to see it liked by the Canadian hockey commissioner, as well as the head of the SJHL." shared Ledding. "The whole point of us having these awareness games across the country in the month of February, is to highlight how important it is to have a discussion about mental health awareness."

Conversations around mental health are always important, and for some of the Klippers players, perhaps last week was an introduction. 

"We were blessed to be able to have some of the Klippers taking pictures holding placards," she explained, the messages reading statements like "you are not alone", "I am here to listen", "I will help you get help". "It just shined a light on how we need to dispel the stigma around mental health, and get the conversation going. Because someone around us might be struggling, and we can be there to talk to them, and pivot them towards experts, kind of like at the CMHA, that would be able to help them."

Ledding was very happy to see the response from the team as they broached the topic of mental health. The Talk Today program was actually created by a former junior hockey player.

"They know the struggles of being an up-and-coming athlete, and the pressure that you face, and how it might be difficult to have that conversation about mental health." said Ledding. "In that video, they actually include a clip in the training of an NHL player who went through suicidal ideation. The steps that he went through, such as his wife noticing the signs and symptoms in him, and they had a conversation, and then he went and sought help. And that is honestly the majority of what this is all about."

In a hockey sense, it's an important role, being the eyes and ears to notice if everything is ok with your teammates.

"Being willing to say, 'Hey, how are you doing? Do you need to talk?' Then if they do identify they are vulnerable, or at risk, you can say, 'These are the resources I know'. We literally have printed cards available with crisis lines on them, as well as my contact information, if that person they talked to needs some help." 

As you can see above, CMHA Rosetown has been busy with a whole load of activities. Ledding presented the Positivity and Optimism course to students at North West Central School in Plenty, and is back with the same course Thursday in Kindersley. Those courses are in addition to her regular programming available out of Rosetown.

Coming up next for CMHA Rosetown is an in-depth conversation on mental health awareness within agriculture, taking place in Eston on Monday, February 26 at 10:00 AM. The "Talk, Ask, Listen" event will run to 3:00 PM, the presentation being crafted through the "Do More Ag Foundation".