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Mental health important basketball squads

author: ethan williams | staff writer

The Cougar basketball teams took part in the second annual USports Bell Let’s Talk/Arthur Ward/Arthur Images

 

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The Bell Let’s Talk campaign has gained plenty of steam in the past few years, and this year, the mental health awareness project once again spread to the U of R basketball teams. On Jan. 26, the teams held a special event during their games to promote mental health awareness. Tanya Reynoldson is the Sponsorship and Marketing Coordinator in the University of Regina’s athletics department, and explained how the event got started.

“We started the Bell Let’s Talk initiative last year. It’s our second year running this event.”

Reynoldson explained why the event was so important to raise awareness for the event and for what the event stands for.

“We are creating an important conversation about mental health on our university campus as well as in the community. We think it’s an important message for everyone to hear and we need to start the conversation.”

She explained that the game featured many mental health-related activities, including a guest speaking from Peers Helping Peers, as well as items such as thunder sticks, tattoos, and the popular Bell Let’s Talk speech bubbles that people were able to use during the game.

Dave Taylor is the head coach for the Cougar women’s basketball team, and explained that the campaign is being held not just at the U of R, but also at university campuses all across Canada. He said that his team had some personal connections to this event.

“This is a national U SPORTS initiative. However, it is really important to us. I can say that we have had quite a few of our athletes the last few years affected directly or with family by mental health issues. Two years ago at Nationals, one of the major award winners openly discussed her mental health battles in her speech. I know that made a massive impact on our team.”

Taylor is hopeful that the initiative can be continued.

“I hope this continues as even though it is a small part, anything that builds awareness is great.”

Samuel Hillis knows well about keeping mental health in-check. Being a student-athlete, he has had to juggle a lot during his time at the U of R. He explained that it is a delicate balance.

“Personally, I have had plenty of difficult times with student athletics. Exams, midterms, assignments, and important games always seem to come down around the same time. Having teammates to lean on and knowing that there are plenty of other athletes all dealing with the same type of issues as me is really comforting.”

He also praised the Bell Let’s Talk initiative for its work across the country, and how it ties into sports.

“The Bell Let’s Talk initiative has done a great job of raising the awareness of mental health issues. I feel that athletics is a great medium for releasing stress in out busy lives. While the student athlete experience is amazing, it brings along plenty of stress with it. Athletics is a perfect place to show support and initiative for mental health awareness. The popularity of athletics also broadens the exposure of the initiative, and reaching out to athletes all over the country is a great way to expand the initiative.”

Dave Taylor, meanwhile, also touched on an important point about stereotypes surrounding mental wellness.

“There is a belief sometimes that athletes aren’t affected. Athletes take care of their physical health but often [need] help with their mental health.”

He said that mental health has a “massive” impact on athletes.

“Just like your physical health impacts your performance, so does your mental health. If you are struggling with mental health, it impacts all areas of your life. Having an awareness [campaign] makes it easier to get help.”

Tanya Reynoldson said the overall goal of the event was about education.

“Our goal is to start the conversations and educate our student athletes, as well as the community, that it is OK to have these conversations.”

In terms of their games this weekend, both teams battled hard and had, overall, a successful weekend. Taylor’s women’s team came away with two comfortable wins over the University of Winnipeg, beating the Manitoba team 70-59 in the first match, and 89-72 in the second. The men took home the “W” against the U of W on Saturday night, winning 80-78. The men lost the Friday game by a slim margin: 92-89.

The national Bell Let’s Talk day was held on January 31. All funds raised will go to mental health research. To get involved, visit letstalk.bell.ca.

About Ethan Williams

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