NOVEMBER 2nd, 2020 | Over last two weeks of October, all the RHA teams have participated in the Buddy Check for Jesse Awareness for mental health. The idea of this and by doing a "Buddy Check" is simply a reminder to keep an eye on each other and ourselves. It is not about suicide (which isn’t always related to a mental health problem). It’s a message that I hope will spread throughout the sport community and beyond. If we look out for each other and do a ‘Buddy Check’ with our friends, teammates, family members and even with ourselves. 

Prior to their games on the last weekends of October, RHA coaches have been doing a brief pre-game dressing room or boardroom chat about who Jesse was and what happened to him and the importance of mental health. On the last weekend of October each year, players can use the color green (the color for mental health) in many inventive ways to demonstrate their awareness and support of this message. Green hockey tape has been a mainstay of this message consistent with the program roots beginning with ice hockey.

The reason RHA participates in this cause is:

-To honor the memory of Jesse Short-Gershman who died by suicide on October 29, 2014;

-To educate and empower Youth Leaders (e.g. Coaches) to pass on important mental health messages to their players and recognize the important role that Youth Leaders play in the lives of our youth;

-To destigmatize mental illness diagnoses, normalize the language surrounding mental health and mental illness and expose the myths around mental health challenges;

-To help players understand that there is help and support available when it comes to their mental health and that most mental illnesses are treatable and should not be feared;

-To educate players and arm them with accurate information about mental health and mental illness so that they feel confident in providing support to a teammate, friend, family member, etc. when they see someone struggling and in need of emotional support;

-To give players the confidence to reach out to a teammate, Youth Leader, manager, parent or health care professional to open a discussion on their personal mental health; and

-To raise awareness that 100% of the population will be touched by mental illness, whether they experience it themselves or are touched by it through a family member, friend, co-worker, etc. and help people understand what they can do to either receive or give support.