I Got Mind Tour to address mental health issues in sport

A group of former professional hockey players is headed to Red Deer this week to discuss mental health.

Thursday’s stop on the I Got Mind Tour at Westerner Park is designed to create awareness around mental health for young athletes and break down the social stigma surrounding the phrase “mental health.”

Long-time NHL goalie Kelly Hrudey headlines the group, with Kevin Smyth and Bob Wilkie, as well as RDC Kings athlete Matt Hope, engaging in a panel discussion.

“It’s so cool because when we put the show together, we thought the panel with a guy like Kelly Hrudey is a draw. People listen to him every Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada and they know about his career,” said the founder and president of I Got Mind Inc., Bob Wilkie.

“To all of a sudden hear that Kelly was in a terrible place, as a professional, then to have to deal with a daughter who has severe anxiety. He comes at it from a couple of different perspectives.”

Wilkie, 49, played 18 career NHL games throughout the 1990s and had a 10-year professional career in the American Hockey League.

He said it was his own struggles with depression and anxiety that brought on the desire to start I Got Mind. He turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain and struggled to find answers at first. After going through that experience, Wilkie said he was coaching young athletes when he reached a startling conclusion.

“As I started to find out why those sort of things happened to me along my journey, I was coaching and I said, ‘these kids are going through the same thing,’” he said.

“So, I’m going to learn and take my experience and pass them along to these people, so they don’t have to struggle as much.”

Wilkie has been working with athletes and parents for 12 years. He noted that in the last several years, having high-profile athletes like Micheal Phelps discuss their battle with depression and anxiety as a silent illness has been important.

The main focus in Thursday’s panel discussion will be to outline the challenges young athletes and parents face in the battle with mental health issues. In turn, it will educate them on the best practices for dealing with the struggles.

“After our show in Calgary, we sent out a survey and the No. 1 thing in all the emotions was hope,” Wilkie said.

“That they’re going to be able to do it better and it’s going to get easier, now that there are some answers and some light that’s been shed on it. That we can do things a little differently and enjoy it more.”

The I Got Mind Tour takes place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Westerner Park. For more information, check out www.igotmind.ca/

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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