When I got into hockey about five years ago, it was mostly because the game itself was so interesting to me. It’s fast, it requires a ton of skill, it has a lot of “holy crap can you believe that” moments, and everyone hugs after scoring. That’s my kind of sport. But a big reason, I think, that I stayed so invested in hockey was the fact that the hockey community is so intensely invested in initiatives to de-stigmatize mental health issues. As someone who has dealt with a lot of mental health issues (anxiety, depression, ADD), has been in therapy on and off (but mostly on) for over twenty years, and has been on psychiatric medication for about 17 and a half of those years, this was an enormous weight off my shoulders. At the time I got into hockey, I was nearing the tail end of my seven year episode of being housebound due to agoraphobia, and it was such a relief to be around people I felt like I didn’t have to lie to. Not that I told everyone around me the intimate details of my mental health, or really any details at all, but the knowledge that I could, that I didn’t have to be closeted if I didn’t want to, was a huge weight off my shoulders.
Every year the hockey community (because the hockey community is largely Canadian) explodes with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, which donates $0.05 to Canadian mental health initiatives every time it is shared on social media and also encourages the frank and open discussion of mental health issues. In the last few years, even though Bell is a Canadian company, it’s become a big thing not just in the hockey community. As of me typing this, #BellLetsTalk is also trending second in the United States. And frankly, not that many people are hockey fans.
Since today is for sharing about mental health, and since I have spent so much of my life being mentally ill and going through every type of therapy and/or medication regime there is, I thought rather than share my story (which is not very interesting – I was sick, then I worked really hard and now I’m better), I’d share the seven iron-clad mental health rules that I have learned and that I wish everyone, mentally ill or not, knew.