Annual Start Talking Cup hits the ice in Barrie Jan. 22

You’re not the only one who feels stressed, anxious and depressed. You’re not alone. That’s the message Barrie Sharks captain Kayla Welk wants to share with Simcoe County youth.

Welk is a participant in the third annual Start Talking Cup, which takes place Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Barrie Molson Centre. As part of the event, Welk and other hockey players took part in a mental-health awareness course through the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Simcoe County branch.

“I would have liked to have known this when I was younger because I used to deal with anxiety and I thought I was alone, so I didn’t share what was going on,” Welk said. “Once others told me they were going through the same thing I started talking about it and I got over it.”

This year’s Start Talking Cup features three hockey games with six teams. The AAA Minor Atom Barrie Colts play the Orillia North Central Predators beginning at 1:30 p.m. The Bantam AA Barrie Sharks play the Aurora Panthers at 3 p.m. and the AAA Minor Midget Barrie Colts challenge the Orillia North Central Predators at 5 p.m.

2017 marks the first year a female hockey team joins the lineup.

“It’s not just boys who experience mental-health difficulties or addiction issues, girls do too,” noted Lynne Raimondi, resource development with the CMHA in Barrie.

The Start Talking Cup melds hockey and youth mental health to promote that physical health and mental health go hand in hand.

“If you’re physically healthy it certainly helps your mental health. And especially in the hockey world over the years we’ve heard so many stories of athletes who are struggling with mental-health issues, addiction issues. It really normalizes it,” Raimondi said.

In 2003, NHL hockey player Shayne Corson, who grew up in Barrie, made public his struggle with mental-health challenges and sought help. Corson battled anxiety and crippling panic attacks. While trying to hide his mental illness, Corson self-medicated with alcohol and became addicted to a prescription drug.

One in five people will struggle with a mental health, or addiction issue in their lifetime, Raimondi said. In 2016, the Simcoe County CMHA branch served 9,233 people and supported 16,387 people crisis calls.

“Our hope is to educate people that there is hope and there is certainly a great path to recovery. By talking about issues and normalizing things for that person it makes it so much better,” she said.

Event sponsors include: Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Centre and Mid Ontario Disposal.

Sports Medicine president Rick Schaly said: “The more we can get people talking, the more we can support individuals who are facing personal challenges. I have witnessed firsthand the type of help provided by the CMHA. They do such great work in our community.”

The event includes a silent auction, 50-50 draw, interactive booths, special VIP guests and the Barrie Colts mascot, Charlie Horse, will be there handing out prizes.