Time for our society to focus on the issue of mental health

My involvement with former NHL player Rick Rypien over the last 10 plus years has given me a different perspective on mental illness and psychological issues than other sports agents may have.  Rick was an NHL player that I represented who suffered from mental health concerns that eventually led to his death over one year ago.  Rick had battled some of these emotional and psychological issues throughout his career, and even with a strong support system, was not able to win the battle.

The athletes in all pro sports definitely need to be educated toward the importance of maintaining a healthy mind and spirit, and everyone involved needs to dispel any reference to the stigmas attached to mental health issues.  Leagues and unions both need to get on the task of educating their athletes in these aspects so that we can get to the point where depression and other mental health problems can be treated much like a sprained ankle or a broken bone. 

The biggest issue in my mind is perception and the fear that such issues will follow an athlete like a dark cloud throughout his or her whole career.  A multi-level support system needs to be enacted within each team, so that the athlete has a variety of entry points while seeking help.  The biggest challenge seems to be that not all athletes seek help in the same manner, so a variety of help options need to exist. 

Whether you’re a professional athlete or someone that works hard every day at your job, it’s been my experience that people have a difficult time making that initial step toward getting help, and often wait, until it is sadly too late. 

Everyone in this country knows someone that suffers from mental health problems and the sooner that we bring attention to this matter, the more society can assist those who suffer.

Roy is president and CEO of CMG Sports.