Algoma University is partnering with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Sault Ste. Marie to be the first university in Canada to adopt the Talk Today program, one of the most comprehensive mental health programs for amateur sports. Talk Today consists of several components including mental health and suicide-awareness workshops for student-athletes and Talk Today community awareness games on campus.
CMHA Sault Ste. Marie will train 120 student-athletes, 20 coaches, and three full-time staff in safeTALK, a workshop that teaches individuals the importance of talking about mental health, how to recognize signs of suicide, seeking help when they’re in need of support, and connecting others in need of support to suicide first aid resources.
Another core component of the program is the relationship between the student-athletes and staff at CMHA Sault Ste. Marie. A CMHA Mental Health Coach serves as a liaison for the teams and can provide access to mental health resources, referrals to community mental health and addictions support or mental health crisis intervention services.
“As a student-athlete, I have a tremendous amount of responsibility dealing with assignments, being a duel-sport athlete in cross-country running and Nordic skiing, and managing everything else in my schedule. This program will help me to remember that I have to look after my mental health and that it’s okay to ask for help if things get overwhelming,” said Algoma Thunderbird Marissa Ditoro.
The Talk Today partnership is part of the mental health supports the CMHA provides Algoma U through a unique partnership agreement that begins this year. This initiative will provide the University community with access to a mental health educator who will support existing programming and help to implement activities outlined in the agreement.
“Mental illness directly or indirectly affects everyone at some point in their life” said Asima Vezina, President and Vice-Chancellor of Algoma University. “We are fortunate to build on our partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association to not only support our student-athletes’ mental health but raise awareness about the importance of mental wellness on campus.”
“We are very excited to partner with Algoma University to launch Talk Today with their varsity athletes,” said Lisa Carricato, Mental Health Coach, CMHA Sault Ste. Marie. “Their commitment to student mental health is inspiring and will go a long way in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health on campus.”
Talk Today was originally launched in October 2014 as a partnership between CMHA Ontario and the Ontario Hockey League. Nearly 2,500 athletes, coaches, parents, billets and staff have participated in suicide prevention workshops as part of the Talk Today program over the past three years.