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UBC Thunderbirds Hannah Clayton-Carroll (Left), and Kathleen Cahoon (Right).

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are in the think of the second half of the Canada West season. Coming off of back to back shutouts over the Calgary Dinos, the 12-6-0 Thunderbirds will host the 7-11-0 Regina Cougars on Friday and Saturday at Father David Bauer Arena.

It’s going to be a special Friday night, as hockey won’t be on the forefront. The Thunderbirds are hosting their second annual Mental Health Awareness game. The women’s hockey program has made it a priority to raise awareness and help out on campus as much as possible after the loss of goaltender Laura Taylor in 2016.

“It’s obviously a close to home cause for us,” Coach Graham Thomas admitted. “A lot of players played with Laura here, and alumni is coming. It’s an important cause for us, and it’s something we’ve been advocates for the cause. There’s been some good come out of it, some opening up, and support that’s come out of it. That’s happened across the country, and in our league. We’ve had a lot of players, and people reach out to us. It’s a great cause.”

UBC President Santa Ono is expected to take part in a ceremonial puck drop. Ono has been open about his battle with mental health issues. Each team will wear a special sticker on their helmet. Fans are encouraged to wear green, as that is the colour for mental health awareness. There will be fundraising for causes like Bell Let’s Talk, and much more.

“It’s a big thing for our team, obviously with the loss of LT (Laura Taylor), it’s a big thing for us,” Kathleen Cahoon added. “We want to every other team to come out and support it, and get people talking, that’s the biggest thing. We don’t want the stigma to be around it, and not have people talk about it. We’re really trying to hype it up, and get people talking.”

Canada West Ice Hockey (CIS): Women -  UBC Thunderbirds host Regina

UBC Thunderbirds, Kathleen Cahoon. Photo Credit: Rich Lam UBC Athletics.

As with athletes there tends to be an onus, and somewhat of a duty for them to speak up and raise awareness whenever they can, and not just for mental health awareness. Athletes are held in a higher regard, and people look up to them. The UBC Thunderbirds realize that, and want to make sure they are doing their part to lend a hand or an ear.

“With us and our success the last couple of years, and media attention we’ve got, we’re trying to use it as a platform to help raise awareness to do the best thing we can for it. It’s a big thing for us and over the years we have noticed a difference, even in our own dressing room. We have started to speak up about it and girls are opening up. We try and create a safe place for everyone and try and relay that message across campus,” Cahoon said.

 

The Thunderbirds are helping to lead the way, and they are committed to making a change with more initiatives, resources, and dialogue. Mikayla Ogrodniczuk is a great example of how much it means to want to make a difference. The third-year defender, and her dad, Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, Professor and Director of the UBC Psychotherapy Program, helped create a resource called the UBC Athletes Hub.

Modelled after a program at the University of Michigan. The UBC Athletes Hub aims to increase awareness of mental health issues, reduce the stigma of help-seeking, and promote health and wellness among varsity athletes at UBC. The free resource was launched just last month, and is being greatly received.

“My dad and I teamed up with some of his coworkers, as well as a former varsity athlete that works with him, and created something called UBC Athlete Hub,” Mikayla Ogrodniczuk shared. “It’s a mental health resource for all UBC varsity athletes. It’s the first of its kind in Canada. No other Canadian university has this kind of resource. We’re really excited to promote it.”

Adjusting to life at university can be quite challenging for students. Having a Mental Health Awareness game shows that the Thunderbirds stand with those who are struggling and may need help. If more people talked about mental health issues as much as they do about hockey, that would benefit a lot of people. The UBC Thunderbirds are determined to do both.

UBC Athletes Hub – http://ubcathleteshub.ca

Bell Let’s Talk – https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

 

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