(Photo - Jordy Cunningham/Kelowna Capital News)

Ex-Canuck Corey Hirsch stacks the pads for mental health in Kelowna and beyond

Hirsch is a mental health advocate looking to end the stigma

Former Stanley Cup Champion and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Corey Hirsch has gone from stopping pucks to saving lives.

The now 50-year old struggled with mental health issues throughout his career and was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He now is a mental health advocate spreading the word to as many people as he can. On Thursday, he made a stop in Kelowna to talk about his career, his struggles, and how important mental health is.

“We’re just trying to spread the message of mental health, just educate people,” said Hirsch. “Most people aren’t educated with mental health.”

Hirsch spoke for about an hour about his career and how his struggles started during his rookie season when he was with the New York Rangers when they won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

Throughout the event, he talked about many different stories and all his struggles with the common goal of teaching the audience about how important mental health is. During his career, he stated that mental health issues we’re looked at as weak and people would judge because were not as educated as we are now.

“You can’t see mental health. You can see a broken leg, you can see someone with some sort of physical wound but mental health, you can’t see it.”

As part of educating ourselves, Hirsch stated there’s signs people can look out for in people they know including substance abuse (drinking, drugs), withdrawing from friends, changes in personality and behaviour.

And while people are much more educated about mental health and wellness now and more people are willing to talk about their own struggles, there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s a much safer place. The issue right now is finding help. People are coming forward but our system is so far behind and our psychologists and our psychiatrists, our counsellors, they’re overwhelmed. That’s a problem with the system, not with the actual psychologists and our psychiatrists because they’re trying to see as many people as they can themselves and take care of themselves too. It’s a tsunami right now.”

It’s important to lean on the right people in your life who will understand.

“If you have a friend that’s going to judge you, or doesn’t believe you, or doesn’t want to help, or makes you feel bad in some way, guess what? They’re not your people. And on the flip side, if you can help somebody, go out there and do it because we all struggle.”

For Hirsch, he wants to educate as many people as he can and he hopes that people will echo his message to others.

Still close to the NHL, Hirsch also said he’s seen changes around the league but it’s more behind the scenes. He also said coaches need to be educated more so they can see signs of mental health issues in their players.

For more information about Hirsch and his tour with ICBA, click here.

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