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Bell Let’s Talk reaches Concordia

Stingers men’s hockey forward Philippe Hudon speaks out about his experiences with mental illness

In any given year, one in five Canadians suffer from a mental health or addiction problem, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

One of those Canadians is Philippe Hudon, a forward and assistant captain on the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team. In 2010, Hudon was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Philippe Hudon shared his personal story with the media in his last year of Junior hockey. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

The condition is described as a disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviours (compulsions) that they feel the urge to constantly repeat, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Since sharing his story with sports network RDS in 2014, Hudon has turned his condition into a positive experience and has lent his voice to the discussion surrounding mental illness. This year, he is the Concordia Stingers’ representative for Bell Let’s Talk Day.

According to Bell Canada, on Jan. 25, more than 20,000 university athletes from 53 schools across Canada will take part in an initiative to promote mental health awareness on campuses.

For Hudon, helping Concordia take part in the Bell Let’s Talk campaign is something he’s always been interested in doing.

“The Stingers have been really involved with community work,” Hudon said. “When I came in, about two years ago, I really wanted to make a difference, especially with the Bell Let’s Talk initiative which I had already touched upon previously when I was playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.”

One of the Stingers’ contributions leading up to Jan. 25 was the Bell Let’s Talk Day hockey game, which was held at the Ed Meagher Arena on Jan. 7. Before the match, which was against Ryerson University, the Stingers gave out pamphlets to raise awareness about Bell Let’s Talk and mental health in general.

Hudon, who is in his third year with the Stingers, got to take part in the ceremonial face-off before the game—an honour usually reserved for captains.

“It felt great to be a spokesperson for a great cause, especially with myself having been through times of hardship where I had to battle and come back better than ever,” Hudon said. “Being able to host a game and being able to be a part of the puck drop was pretty emotional, especially with all of my brothers on the ice with me.”

Apart from the game against Ryerson, Hudon has been involved with the Bell Let’s Talk initiative in other ways. For instance, he recently gave a talk at Kuper Academy in the West Island, where just one year ago, a student committed suicide.

Hudon talked to the students about mental health and his struggles with OCD. The assembly was organized by Kuper Academy student Ethan Chang with the goal of helping to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“At first I was really excited to do it because I love getting involved like that, but I was also really nervous. I’ve done presentations in class but talking to 500 students was something big,” Hudon said. “It turned out to be a success and that’s something that I’m really proud of.”

As part of Bell Let’s Talk Day, Hudon was given the opportunity to share his story on a national level. Earlier this month, he spoke to a representative at Bell about his struggles, and was approached by media outlets such as CTV and TSN for features.

Since airing his story on a major network three years ago, Hudon said he has become more confident in sharing his experiences. He said he will talk to anybody who is willing to listen, and believes it’s important to share his story with as many people as possible.

Hudon took part in the ceremonial face-off during a game against Ryerson on Jan. 7. Photo by Brianna Thicke

“I think that I can make a difference,” Hudon said. “By sharing my story, I hope I can help people whether they are affected personally by mental illness or not, or whether they know someone who is affected and that it gives them the tools that will help them in the near future.”

The Bell Let’s Talk initiative, whose official spokesperson is Olympian Clara Hughes, has been around since 2010 and has grown every year since. In 2016, the campaign broke its donation record, with over $6 million raised for mental health programs across Canada.

Hudon said it’s been incredible to see the increasing support for the initiative, and he feels that people are really starting to care about issues surrounding mental health.

“It makes me feel comfortable and happy that people aren’t just supporting Bell Let’s Talk for hashtags and social media. I think there’s more to it,” Hudon said. “I see more and more people actually want to get involved and want to know more. We want to include everybody in society and the growing number of spokespeople and donations is progress that makes me feel warm and happy.”

For those with mental illness who are worried or afraid about sharing their experiences, Hudon said it’s a tough situation. However, he said something that helped him when he was struggling was surrounding himself with his friends and family who were truly there for him.

“By sticking with your true friends, it’s going to make it a lot easier to talk because you know those people won’t judge you and will just listen,” Hudon said. “My motto is ‘lend an ear.’ For people who aren’t affected, just listen and be there for someone and make sure they aren’t lost and don’t feel like an outsider.”

If you’re a student at Concordia who is suffering from any mental health issues and needs someone to talk to, Health Services is open to all students and is located at 7141 Sherbrooke St. West in room 131 of the AD building.

About Alexander Cole