Team is like family—it’s important to look out for and support one another. Mental health issues are as normal as physical ones, and they are treatable. By talking about mental health, coaches hope to reduce the stigma and encourage kids to reach out for help.
Buddy Check For Jesse (BCFJ) is a grassroots Canadian charity that helps coaches support youth mental health through the power of sport. Started by Dr. Stu Gershman, a sport medicine physician in Victoria, BC, to honour his son Jesse, who died by suicide on October 29, 2014, BCFJ empowers coaches to bring mental health education and awareness “into the dressing room.” Coaches play an incredible role in the lives of youth and BCFJ believes that these coaches are in a unique position to help raise awareness about mental health issues with their players. The players also benefit on many levels knowing that their coaches care about them. The grant provided by the Courtnall Society for Mental Health will go towards continuing to raise awareness about mental health issues and expanding the reach of the BCFJ program.
The idea behind giving a Buddy Check Coach’s Talk is to create an environment where teammates support and “Buddy Check” one another, aiming to normalize talking about how we’re feeling and de-stigmatize mental health challenges and disorders. BCFJ strongly believes that youth will change the future through kindness, compassion, and tolerance in our communities. Hopefully this will allow more individuals to come forward and receive help and support. Raising awareness and educating our youth in the area of mental health is something that most sport organizations struggle with. BCFJ’s message is simple, impactful and easy for coaches, teams, associations and sport bodies to deliver. Large numbers of youth can be reached in a short period of time in an environment where kids want to be—their chosen sport.
As exemplified recently by NHL goalie Carey Price, Olympians Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka and many others, the BCFJ message is taking on a high degree of relevance for athletes in the current climate.
BCFJ has had a busy three years, and even through the pandemic they have continued to grow and support coaches and athletes. They were also able to expand from their ice hockey roots to a multi-sport format.
BCFJ highlights and achievements:
- Well over 2000 coaches delivered “Buddy Check” talks reaching more than 50,000 youth, primarily in BC and also across Canada
- Extensive and growing social media presence
- Awards from Sport BC, BC Hockey, Hockey Canada and the Doctors of BC
- Tangible, emotional and meaningful positive feedback from athletes, coaches, sport organizations and families
- Ongoing partnerships, fundraisers and initiatives with many organizations, foundations, charities and, most importantly, multiple sport and sport governing associations
“Most of us know people who struggle with mental health or even struggle with it themselves. Personally I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression in the past but it’s my teammates and my family who got me through. I can say now that it might not be all good all the time but I know that I can talk to the boys about it whenever I’m down.”
—CS, youth athlete