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UBC Thunderbirds Hannah Clayton-Carroll (Left), and Kathleen Cahoon (Right) supporting Bell Let’s Talk day.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds skated in line rushes during a lengthy practice on Wednesday morning at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Coach Graham Thomas was putting his players through the paces as they prepare to host the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday (7:00 pm) and Saturday (4:00pm) at UBC.

It’s been a busy January for the Thunderbirds who have been helping to raise awareness for mental health issues in the memory of Laura Taylor. On Bell Let’s Talk day, one player stood out during practice, second year forward, Hannah Clayton-Carroll was rocking the Bell Let’s Talk day toque. The bright blue addition was noticeable on top of her helmet, and it also matched the patented Thunderbirds blue jersey.

It’s a small gesture, but something Clayton-Carroll felt comfortable embracing.

“I just think it’s important for everyone to know that it’s something not heavy in the media, it just needs to become something more popular for people to talk about. Wearing the toque is something small that I can do to help out other people. It’s a great thing to do.”

All around campus, athletes from the Thunderbird flock have been doing all that they can do to spread awareness, talk, and listen to people struggling with mental health issues. Coach Thomas couldn’t be more happy by the response his team has received, it’s even moved him to perhaps, one day, jump aboard a social media platform to help out.

“We’ve had a great response,” said Thomas. “We’re so proud of the girls, they’re really buying into it. It’s obviously close to home for us, it means a lot to us, this year especially, and from now on moving forward. It’s a great campaign, it’s awesome. I need to personally learn how to… I don’t have twitter, I don’t have any of that, I’ve never hash-tagged before. I need to take advantage of this campaign with Bell. In all seriousness, our girls are doing a phenomenal job. We’re just really proud of them.”

West Vancouver native, Haneet Parhar, has been blown away by the overall positive feedback from fellow UBC students, and faculty. Sometimes it only takes one group of strong-minded people to speak up and get the puck rolling. The Thunderbirds have done just that, in Taylor’s honour. They’ve shown that it’s not all about goals, assists, academics, and the latest Snapchat filter. It’s about caring for friends, family, others around you, and sometimes complete strangers.

“We’ve got a lot of feedback,” revealed Parhar. “It’s extraordinary to hear (that) people we’ve never even talked to, we didn’t even know, come up to us, and say, wow, thank you so much, this means so much to me, and we love that you guys are doing this. It’s making a difference with people that we don’t even know. It’s really important.”

The hashtag, #BellLetsActuallyTalk was trending on twitter on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a signal that indicates more needs to be done to raise awareness and progress talks surrounding mental health issues, all year around. #BellLetsTalk day is a fantastic initiative from Bell, but what about the other 364 days of the year?

Communities like the Southeast Asian, East Asian, and others don’t necessarily communicate very well within those cultural societies. If you have a mental health issue, it can often be perceived as a weakness, impairment, or bad omen to share your struggles with others.

Parhar is familiar with this notion, and she wants to help make a change.

“Yeah it’s very important,” admitted Parhar. “I personally, unfortunately have first hand knowledge of that. It’s a stigma that is not just within one culture, or one society, it spans all over the world. It is extremely important, because it’s something that is not talked about outside of more progressive societies, so it’s very important.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Haneet Parhar supports Bell Let’s Talk Day.

The UBC Thunderbirds family is one close-knit family that’s doing big things to help reach other people so other families don’t suffer in silence. Retiring Laura Taylor’s jersey on January 6, having her family in attendance, and raising money to help others is a lasting effect that will be felt beyond this month. The Thunderbirds have been brought closer together as a team, and in turn, Coach Thomas has learned a few things himself.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” said Thomas, “We’re always looking at ways to get better. For me as a coach, it’s an area you can always get better in. You can’t control everything, and there’s definitely an onus on the person who is going through a tough time to tell somebody, but there’s also a part of that, where it’s on the rest of the team, coaching staff, and everyone to be aware to try and ask some questions sometimes, and reach out sometimes or try and do as much as we can do. We can’t be there all the time, and I recognize that. We can’t follow them around and babysit them, they’re adults. At the same time, yeah there’s things for sure we’ve taken away, or me personally have taken away to be better and more aware.”

Hannah Clayton-Carroll vows to wear her blue toque everyday to help others. Although she’ll probably have to wash it sometime, she, like her teammates are showing just how much mental health awareness needs to be in the spotlight all year round.

“I’ve been on social media a lot this morning,” said Clayton-Carroll, “I’ve noticed that half of my friends tweeting #BellLetsTalk, and re-tweeting all of that. It shows that everyone in the community really cares about this issue. They all want to battle towards it, and help end the stigma.”

If more organizations, businesses, and people come together, like the UBC Thunderbirds, one day, a day devoted to raising awareness for mental health issues might not be needed as much as it is now. Until that day comes, the UBC Thunderbirds will be there to lend a helping hand, and they might even help Coach Thomas figure out twitter.

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