Almost without realizing it, Logan MacKinnon is bettering his mental health every time he picks up his hockey stick.
A member of Truro’s Asphalt Assault squad, MacKinnon had just lost 17-2 to local rivals the Bar Town Beauts, but he was in high spirits after a match in which he scored both goals at the Hubtown Street Hockey Tournament Saturday.
“It’s all about having fun and playing against [people] you haven’t played before and this competition’s good,” said MacKinnon.
Indeed, having fun on the pitch and competing in sports on a warm June day may be just what the doctor ordered for youths like MacKinnon, many of whom are facing what some are calling a mental health crisis.
“I think we spend a lot of time isolated and away from other people,” said Sarah Flemming, an outreach worker for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Colchester East Hants office. Everything’s digitized so we’re all on our phones a lot, we maybe don’t make time for family and friends the way we used to, so I think it’s really easy to live in a bubble and not feel a sense of connectedness.”
Flemming manned a desk at the tourney, held outside Truro’s Cougar Dome, which brought local 45 teams and 500 players into town for the two-day event running on June 15-16. Player ages ranged from seven to 17.
She did not know why exactly Nova Scotian and Canadian youth are facing an epidemic of mental illness, but the CMHA says many people experiencing mental illness cannot access proper care.
The group also says youths aged 15 to 24 are highly vulnerable to mental illness, such as anxiety, mood, or personality disorders, among others.
But Flemming said people coming together and participating in big public events like the Hubtown Street Hockey Tournament can relieve feelings of loneliness that contribute to poor mental wellbeing.
To help build a sense of togetherness, hockey players participated in a Zumba warmup on Saturday morning, while younger children enjoyed a bouncy castle. Players also practiced their goal shots on a skateable pad set up at the edge of the parking lot, using real pucks.
“The whole purpose behind [the tournament] is bringing our community together, getting out and focusing on our youth mental health,” said event executive director Laurie Burcham. It is in crisis – and what better way to deal with it and handle it as a community than coming together and playing a group sport?”