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Canucks alumnus shares mental health message with students

Peace Arch News - 1/26/2024

Vancouver Canucks goalie Corey Hirsch was a special guest at Ecole Peace Arch (Peace Arch Elementary) last month – with a special message that it's okay to get help when struggling with mental health issues.

Hirsch spoke to a group of Grade 6 and Grade 7 students who have been receiving mental health curriculum co-taught over the past year by the school's Mme. Yasmin Yalpani and White Rock RCMP Const. Chantal Sears, an RCMP media release said.

Sears, the detachment's community response constable, has long been dedicated to supporting youth in the community. And after approaching local schools about youth engagement training, she was immediately invited by Yalpani to co-teach the mental health class throughout the school year.

Out of this came a special project she has worked on to help support youth mental health by inviting in guest speakers from the professional hockey community (including Canucks alumni such as Hirsch and members of the Vancouver Giants team) to discuss common mental health issues.

The Giants introduced their 'Be a Giant' program, with some players and management working with the class last November, and have maintained continued contact with the students since.

Last month, Hirsch spoke to the youth about his own struggles with mental health as a professional athlete.

A leader in advocating for mental health supports and removing the stigma from having a mental disorder, he shared with students his own diagnosis of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and ways he has learned to live with it and succeed.

"Life is about helping others," Hirsch told students.

He urged them to remember to be kind to themselves, while also emphasizing that care must be taken that social media – while omnipresent in today's society – should only be used for good purposes.

Sears' view that the students clearly connected with Hirsch, and were inspired by his words, was borne out by the students own feed-back on the session.

"Corey was really interactive and had a lot of helpful information," Grade 7 student Matteo McLaughlin said.

"He was really kind and inclusive to everyone, and he was willing to talk about his hard personal stuff."

"I learned that you should get help if you are struggling with mental health," said Grade 6 student Harrison Yanicki.

"I want to thank him for coming and presenting to us – it was a once-in-a-lifetime, super cool experience."

"He inspired me, too, and my desire to keep helping students," Sears acknowledged, adding that Hirsch's friendly, down-to-earth approach encouraged the youth to talk openly about mental health issues.

"Throughout my policing career, I have seen mental health-related calls increase substantially," Sears said.

"I hope that by engaging students with this topic, they will have the skills and know the resources available to seek help if they (or a friend or loved one) are struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue," she added.

"The growth I have seen from the students has been amazing. My relationship with them has developed and they know that I can be a support if they are or someone they know is struggling.

"Through our mental health conversations and presentations, I know these students will do better in their classroom, at school and our community. And I will be continuing my work with youth to keep helping the next generation be open about mental health struggles."