Hockey players need therapists, too

The National Hockey League Player Association (NHLPA) is taking a significant step towards addressing mental health concerns in professional sports. The organization has launched a mental health initiative called “First Line,” which aims to educate players about depression, anxiety, substance use, and self-harm.

Run by Dr. Jay Harrison, a former NHL defenseman-turned-mental health counselor and advocate, the First Line program is being touted as the first of its kind in professional sports. The NHLPA hopes to train its players to recognize signs of mental health issues and support one another.

Mental health has become an increasingly important topic among professional hockey players in recent years. Goaltender Robin Lehner, for example, has been open about his struggles with addiction and his journey with bipolar disorder. Stephen Johns, who retired due to post-concussion syndrome, rollerbladed across America in the name of mental health advocacy after experiencing suicidal ideations. Colin Wilson has also spoken about his battle with OCD.

The NHLPA’s mental health initiative is a positive step forward, especially considering the organization’s history of mishandling player injuries. Lehner has been critical of the NHLPA in the past, highlighting the need for improved treatment and support for players.

The First Line program aims to provide players with the necessary tools and resources to prioritize their mental well-being. By fostering a culture of support and understanding, the NHLPA hopes to create an environment where athletes do not have to sacrifice their mental health for the sake of their careers.

Calgary Flames captain Mikael Backlund spoke highly of his experience with the First Line program, stating that it was important for him to support his teammates and take responsibility as the team’s captain. He noted that the meeting was informative and that he learned simple yet impactful ways to be a better leader and teammate.

The NHLPA’s mental health initiative is a significant step in the right direction. By addressing mental health concerns and providing support for players, the organization is prioritizing the well-being of its athletes. This initiative sets an example for other sports organizations to follow and highlights the importance of mental health in professional sports.

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