Research shows Ontario Hockey League players, staff value CMHA Ontario’s mental health program for athletes

(Toronto, March 8, 2021) – New research is highlighting the positive impact of Talk Today, a
mental health awareness and education program that supports the mental health of hockey
players and reduces the risk of suicide across the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

The report, Supporting athlete mental health: An evaluation of Talk Today, showed
overwhelming support for the program among OHL participants. Specifically, 83 per cent said
they would recommend the program to others, while nearly 90 per cent of team staff said they’re
likely to change the way they behave in response to someone with a mental health issue.
The research conducted by McGill University’s faculty of education also indicated 82 per cent of
participants agreed the program was a valuable professional/personal development experience,
and 90 per cent of staff as well as 78 per cent of athletes were satisfied with the program.
Elite athletes face immense pressures, including balancing academic demands and performing
in their chosen sport. Launched in partnership with the OHL and Canadian Mental Health
Association (CMHA), Ontario Division in 2014, Talk Today includes mental health awareness
and suicide prevention training for athletes, direct connections to mental health supports when
necessary, and game days in each community intended to reduce stigma. The program has
grown to include more than 50 CMHAs across Canada supporting junior hockey teams,

postsecondary sports programs, minor sports organizations, and more.
“Over the years, the growth of Talk Today across Canada has been a clear indication of its
effectiveness in supporting elite young athletes, and now through this evaluation, we have
qualitative results that back our efforts,” said CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville. “The
overwhelming approval of this program among athletes and staff alike highlights the hard work
of our branch staff who have established strong, supportive relationships with local clubs. This
work is only beginning and we believe the best is yet to come.”
“Talk Today did a great job of reducing mental health stigma and starting conversations in our
dressing room through my OHL career,” said former five-year Guelph Storm defenceman
Garrett McFadden. “This program helped to foster a safe team culture where players felt
supported and empowered to speak up about any challenges they may be facing.”
As part of the evaluation, McGill received input from all 20 OHL teams, including more than 100
players and support staff who completed online questionnaires with some participants doing
telephone interviews.
“Through this evaluation, our research team sought to understand participants’ reactions to the
program, their acquisition and application of knowledge gained, outcomes related to
participation, and participants’ recommendations,” said McGill faculty of education associate
dean research & innovation Nancy Heath. “Our results showed participants unequivocally
expressed the value and importance of participating in the program, high levels of satisfaction,
retention of the knowledge acquired, and a strong likelihood to change their behaviours toward
people with mental health issues. This report shows CMHA Ontario has been highly successful
in developing a program that provides essential information and resources to young hockey
players and other elite athletes dealing with various aspects of mental health.”

This month marks one year since many sports leagues paused due to COVID-19. Despite play
being on hold, the Talk Today partnership with junior hockey leagues and other sports
organizations across Canada has continued to provide mental health support to elite young
athletes facing challenges amid the uncertainty.
“We came to recognize how important Talk Today was to our young athletes,” said OHL
commissioner David Branch. “Given the research that McGill University has provided it clearly
articulates how important the Talk Today program is to our players and underscores what a
great partner CMHA is to the OHL. As a founding partner of the Talk Today program, it’s
rewarding to see how CMHA has expanded this important initiative not only across the
Canadian Hockey League, but into other leagues and organizations nationally. We look forward
to the continued development of this program.”
Read McGill’s full evaluation report here. For more information about the Talk Today program,