Minor hockey player leads awareness campaign

A 16 year-old hockey player is spreading mental health awareness.

Myles Mattila

16 year-old Myles Mattila is bringing his campaign for mental health awareness to the Okanagan.

Mattila just moved to West Kelowna from Prince George, where he spent the past two years in a partnership with mindcheck.ca and Canadian Mental Health promoting mental health awareness and letting people know there is help if they need it.  In Prince George, Mattila would give presentations at high schools about mental health and getting help, and would also have a booth at Prince George Cougars games, a Western Hockey League team.

“Don’t hold it in, you want to make sure you talk about it with somebody,” Mattila explained of his message to others.  “Holding it in just makes it harder on yourself.  Talking about it with somebody can make it easier.  If you go to the right people, they will understand.  If you tell some friends or random people that’s hard for them because they don’t really know you.  But if you go to a close friend or a counsellor, and there are counsellors in every school,  they can really help you.  If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, they can really help.”

A ninth round pick of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, Mattila moved to West Kelowna to attend Okanagan Mission Secondary and play for the Okanagan Rockets.  It was through hockey that he decided to become involved in the campaign for mental health.

“I had a close friend on my hockey team that I grew up with and played hockey with, he was one of my closest friends,” Mattila explained.  “I noticed a little bit of an attitude change and in how he was playing hockey, so I asked him what was going on.  He said flat out nothing was going on, but I still could notice something was going on.  A few weeks after I asked him again and he told me he had depression and was thinking about killing himself.  At that moment I didn’t know what to do because I was only 13, so I told the coach right away and he actually kicked him off the hockey team.  I didn’t want that at all, because that was almost like a coping tool for him.  So that was how I got involved, because I heard about (former Vancouver Canucks defenceman) Kevin Bieksa losing his best friend (former Canucks forward) Rick Rypien (to suicide) and I wanted to make sure no one felt like I did that day, telling somebody and getting your friend kicked off the hockey team.”

In the three years since that incident, Mattila’s friend has gotten help for his depression, resumed playing hockey and is doing much better.  Those are the types of results Mattila wants to see, and the message he wants to get across; that you aren’t alone with depression, and there are people there to help you.

In Prince George, Mattila only had the local chapter of Canadian Mental Health to work with but now that he is in a region with a much higher population, he is hopeful he can find more teenagers to begin to work with him.  In fall he will begin speaking at high schools in the Okanagan about mental health, and anyone who wants to get involved with promoting mental health can contact either Canadian Mental Health or mindcheck.ca.