Media Spotlight: Gordon Bloom on Reducing Mental Health Stigma in Junior Hockey
For professional athletes, the pressures of competition and stigma surrounding mental health issues can be debilitating to the point where some are leaving the arena for good. Young hockey players are no exception. Fear of negative career repercussions can mean athletes avoid disclosing their mental health concerns.
New research from McGill University shows that mental health awareness programs can help create an environment that supports positive mental health among athletes in the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), says Professor Gordon Bloom, Chair of McGill's Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
Data from CJHL athletes who participated in the Canadian Mental Health Association’s mental health awareness program, Talk Today, reveals that most participants demonstrated a decrease in their own self-stigmatizing around mental health issues and an increased confidence in their ability to seek help. More than three quarters of respondents said they were likely to change the way they responded to mental health issues in the future.
“The results support the worth of future programs among groups with similar or higher levels of stigma, with the ultimate goal of creating an environment that is supportive and conducive of positive mental health among athletes,” said Prof. Bloom. “The context of elite junior hockey in North America is filled with high amounts of competitive stress, where athletes often fear the negative career consequences of disclosing mental health concerns. The current results showing the hockey players’ receptivity to this program and increased knowledge of mental health difficulties all support the worth of future programs among groups with similar or higher levels of stigma, with the ultimate goal of creating an environment that is supportive and conducive of positive mental health among athletes.”
Dr. Bloom's research was featured in the Calgary Herald in the article 'You don't feel alone': Junior hockey players welcome mental health support program.