Rick Rypien died before he could talk publicly about living with mental illness. The popular Canucks forward, who was traded to the Winnipeg Jets but never skated with the team, was diagnosed with depression, took personal leaves of absence from the ice and on Aug. 15 he committed suicide.
Now, the Vancouver Canucks are talking about what he never could. And dozens of hockey fans have already pledged their commitment to tell their own stories or support others in telling theirs in an effort challenge the stigmas that bring on shame, misunderstanding, isolation and greater damage.
The professional hockey club donated $50,000 to launch the online project, mindcheck.ca, in partnership with the Provincial Health Services Authority and the B.C. Childrens Hospital. The slick website targets youth, teens and young adults as well as their families to recognize symptoms and understand the challenges of mental illness.
The front page of the website shows six teens, each looking like any other who might stroll, sit, or talk with friends in a city park anywhere in the province. On a cement terrace, a spray-painted tag reads 37 with RYP below it, a touching stylization that evokes the R.I.P sentiment of a grave.
Each teen asks him or herself a straight-forward but difficult and penetrating question: Why did I get so wasted again? Why do I feel so sad? Why do I worry so much? Why do I need to get high so often?
The thought bubbles link to resources on mood and stress, substance abuse and in-crisis support information.
Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa has already voiced his experience as a close friend and teammate of someone living with mental illness.
Mindcheck.ca was first launched in the spring of 2010 as a Fraser Health early intervention pilot project to address mental health and substance abuse among teens.
Visit the site at mindcheck.ca.