Peer to Peer Support (P2P) is a program being piloted in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with the goal of encouraging young hockey players to talk about mental health.

For Founder Myles Mattila, early intervention with someone you know and trust can go a long way. While it can also be difficult, he said the support of a teammate can sometimes make it easier than someone like a therapist.

“Telling a person that you don’t even know what is going on inside can be very challenging because of confidence, anxiety, many different factors,” Mattila continued to say there are supports out there.

“There are definitely people out there that want to support you and get you the help you need to make sure you live a very healthy and successful life.”

What separates P2P from other programs is the culture and environment Mattila hopes to achieve in locker rooms across the province, encouraging discussions about mental health and allowing players to feel free and safe before it is too late.

This ideology is echoed by Cariboo Cougars General Manager Trevor Sprague. He noted the importance of mental health cannot be overstated, largely due to certain expectations for players on a competitive sports team.

Sprague said every player handles mental health situations differently, which can sometimes be a challenge for coaches and staff.

“For the mental training program most of our staff have taken at this point, it’s been really good on being able to recognize that with our players.”

As for the potential to expand P2P into leagues like the BCMML, where the Cariboo Cougars play, Sprague would welcome that with open arms.

“Hopefully they keep it moving forward and other leagues put a lot of effort into it because I think [mental illness] can get worse when you’re playing a higher level of hockey right up to the NHL and I think it’s something teams need to deal with.”

Mattila’s message to anyone with mental hardship, athlete or otherwise, is that you are not alone and help is available.