Owen’s Story

Raising Awareness & Supporting Mental Health Through Sport? YES. PLEASE.

Written by Lindsay Gee.

As many of you know, my sweet son battles anxiety on the daily. Some days he flies through his day and other days, it’s an emotional, exhausting and depleting battle for us both. I am his pillar of strength and I am his safe place. There is no bigger, more difficult, more important job than that one job I hold. Every battle we fight and win, we both celebrate. We know how important it is to communicate this battle and show our strength to the world. 

My son has approved this post and these photos and wants everyone to know that he is a fighter. 

Last week at hockey practice my son’s coach sat the kids down to have a meeting. I had no idea what was going to be said, had I known, I may have prepared my heart a little better. The coach started talking about teamwork, about how important it is to support one another. He spoke about not judging anyone’s behavior, reaction or displays of emotion. Then he spoke of raising awareness for mental health. He then brought up “Buddy Check for Jesse” and asked the kids to put green tape on their sticks for their upcoming game to support mental health. 

I ducked my head, buried my face in my scarf and tried to breathe through the rest of his speech. 

Why did that affect me so? Because we battle. And discovering that THIS conversation is happening in locker rooms took my breath away. It wasn’t long ago that you wouldn’t dare discuss depression or anxiety, especially during a team meeting. It wasn’t long ago that I would have tried to “hide” the battles my son and I have. But, I know better. And he knows better. He shows me how strong he is every single time he ties up his skates. I know what it takes for him to get out on that ice each and every time. And yet…he does it.

So, as I’m listening to our coach talk about supporting one another, encouraging one another and speaking up for one another, I realized we aren’t alone in this. It is campaigns and good work done like what is being done by “Buddy Check for Jesse”, that I can breathe a little easier and know education is out there, efforts are being made and people are listening to help and support mental health. 

Maybe more people will talk about mental health. Maybe more compassion will be given to my son as he battles. Maybe, just maybe, a child will be listening, really listening, and save a life by reaching out to a friend battling a war many don’t know goes on every moment of every day. 

As the coach was talking, my son looked up at me and said “He’s talking about me”. I told him he was talking about many people, not just him as I was worried he thought the coach was singling him out. He shook his head and said, “No Mama. He’s talking about me and my anxiety. He understands.” 

*Cue ugly cry.

The coach then said “Everyone needs a safe place. Perhaps you will be a safe place for one of your teammates”. My son, once again, looked up at me and said “You’re my safe place, Mama. He’s talking about you”. 

So, yeah, I was a crying mess in the locker room as our coach discussed the green tape the team would be taping on their hockey sticks for their game on the weekend. The tape players would use to show support and compassion and awareness for mental health. 

Raising a child with anxiety is difficult. Not the panic attacks or the worry itself (though trust me, those are gut-wrenching and so very hard), but the thoughts of “what if”. What if this gets worse? What if he gives up? What if I lose a battle? What if, what if, what if…I’m not enough?

Here’s the thing: maybe I’m not enough? Okay. I think that’s okay now. I think with increased awareness and education surrounding mental health, maybe it’s not just me battling for my son. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll find increased support from teammates, coaches and support staff. Maybe, just maybe…I don’t have to be the only one battling with my son. Maybe just maybe, this world will open its compassionate arms and embrace the battle of mental health.

I couldn’t be more proud to see all the green taped hockey sticks on the ice this past weekend. Green is the color for mental health and my son’s taped hockey stick meant so much to both of us. I love sport. I love sport so very much for so many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is the confidence it gives my son to persist, to continue to battle and to know that he’s not alone…both on the ice or in his battle. 

Please check out the good work done by Buddy Check for Jesse.

It’s more than green tape. It’s awareness. It’s support. It’s realizing you’re not alone. It is this initiative that had our coach talking to his players about mental health and support in the dressing room after a practice. Our coach couldn’t have done a better job of it. I was humbled and proud and although a sobbing mess, so very comforted by the message our coach was sending to my son and his teammates.