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Gaels lend voices to mental health conversation

The Queen’s Gaels have joined athletic departments across Canada to spark a conversation to end the stigma around mental illness.

[Students with the Bell Let's Talk toques and signs]
Women's rugby players Miki Kawano (left) and Dominque Rumball (right) and rower Shannon McIlhone participate in the kick off of the Bell Let's Talk studen-athlete initiative. Athletics and Recreation and the Varsity Leadership Council will host a Mental Health Game on Jan. 13 at the Athletics and Recreation Centre. (Submitted photo) 

The Bell Let’s Talk initiative focused on student-athlete mental health kicked off today. Fifty-three universities and more than 23,000 student-athletes and coaches from across Canada will support this initiative leading up to Bell Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 25.

“We recognize that mental health is an issue that impacts many of our student-athletes. Some struggle with mental health problems, while others support their teammates during difficult times,” says Leslie Dal Cin, Executive Director, Queen’s Athletics and Recreation. “We are pleased to partner with Bell Let’s Talk for this initiative in order to encourage even more mental health conversations in sport facilities, classrooms, and residences on campus.”  

As part of the initiative, Queen’s Athletics and Recreation and the Varsity Leadership Council will host a Mental Health Game on Jan. 13, when the Gaels women’s and men’s basketball teams take on the Ryerson Rams at 6 pm and 8 pm, respectively, in the main gym at the Athletics and Recreation Centre. Groups from the Queen’s and Kingston community will attend the game to offer information on mental health programs and support services available in the community. 

What: Mental Health Game featuring Queen's basketball teams vs. Ryerson Rams
Where: Athletics and Recreation Centre Main Gym
When: Friday, Jan. 13. Women's game at 6 pm, men's game at 8 pm​
Groups from the Queen’s and Kingston community will attend the game to offer information on mental health programs and support services available in the community.

Queen’s student-athletes will also be wearing the Bell Let’s Talk toques they received this week. Fans will receive thunder sticks and temporary tattoos and have the opportunity to sign talk bubbles and banners in support of mental health.

Visit oneteam.bell.ca for more information on the campaign.

Queen’s athlete shares story

Nadia Popov, Canadian rugby player and former Gaels women’s rugby team member, has written a first-person account of her experience coping with a mental illness that she was diagnosed with while preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In the story, she discusses the guilt and stigma she experienced and how she overcame those feelings through a treatment plan and support from her family, friends, therapist, and teammates. In an accompanying video, Ms. Popov also explains that Clara Hughes, six-time Olympic medalist and Bell Let’s Talk national spokesperson, inspired her during her struggle with mental illness.

Visit the CBC Sports website to read the full story and watch the video.