Myles Mattila, project developer and spokesperson for the MindRight for Athletes Society (MindRight), has teamed up with concussion reporting and management software company HeadCheck Health (HeadCheck) to advance athlete health and wellness.
MindRight is an online platform which uses hockey as a medium to try and connect individuals seeking help with direct access to mental health support and reduce the stigma behind mental illness.
The organization was created by athlete Myles Mattila, a former Quesnel resident who currently plays junior hockey for the Kelowna Chiefs and who became involved with mental health advocacy at a young age.
When Mattila was 14, he noticed that a close friend and hockey teammate seemed to be going through a difficult time. What at first was brushed off as a friend having a bad day evolved into Mattila noting a dramatic change in his friend’s mental state over the course of a week.
After multiple attempts to get his friend to open up to him, Mattila’s teammate finally felt comfortable telling him what was going on. He told Mattila that he had been feeling sad for a long time and didn’t know what to do about it. He also gave Mattila the impression that he may cause himself harm.
Even at a young age, Mattila knew that this wasn’t something he could keep to himself, so he approached an adult that both he and his friend trusted and had mutual respect for, their hockey coach.
When Mattila informed his hockey coach of the situation his teammate was going through, the coach decided to kick the distressed teen off the team. This was not what Mattila had wanted or had imagined would happen. While Mattila doesn’t agree with what his former the coach did, looking back on the situation now, he believes the coach thought he was doing the right thing at the time.
“I don’t agree with how the coach handled it, but I do believe that he didn’t have the proper support behind him,” said Mattila. “He didn’t have the knowledge about mental health to deal with a situation like that. I do believe that with better education on mental health and the proper tools, that if you get put in a situation like that, you would be able to make a better judgment call.”
It was after that incident that Mattila became inspired to learn more about mental health and become a mental health ambassador. He eventually created MindRight as a way for young athletes to find more information regarding mental health and be connected directly to resources in their communities, as well as provide peer-to-peer support.
“I wanted to make sure that situations like what happened to my friend don’t happen to anyone anymore,” said Mattila. “I wanted to create a website that individuals can go to where there are credible and reliable resources and they can interact with other peers and build up their confidence and eventually go see a professional or talk to someone about what is going on.”
As the MindRight for Athletes Society grows and gains traction within the hockey community (even receiving recognition from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a tweet), Mattila is seeking to collaborate with like-minded organizations to expand his ability to reach young athletes seeking mental health help. This led Mattila to reach out to HeadCheck, a company whose software provides sports teams the latest technology backed by evidence-based science in tracking and diagnosing head injuries.
While HeadCheck’s software is at the forefront of advanced concussion reporting and management at all levels of sport, the company had not been in a position to offer a solution to athletes living with mental health issues that may or may not have been caused by a traumatic head injury. HeadCheck chief executive officer Harrison Brown believes that the work being done by MindRight is important and will be valued by HeadCheck’s clients.
“When concussions are not managed properly, there can be mental health issues that arise. You can go back and look at former players that weren’t managed properly and they have mental health issues like depression and anxiety,” said Brown. “We have always known that this [mental health] is important but also that we were not the right group to be dealing with it. We are not experts in mental health, we don’t necessarily understand it completely, but we want to support it, so when we heard about what Myles was doing at MindRight, we wanted to help.”
Brown believes the collaboration will be not only mutually beneficial to the organizations, but also to their clients.
“We know that when athletes have concussions, there is a higher chance of having mental health issues,” he said. “What Myles is doing [with MindRight] is really trying to make sure that people are able to access and understand more about the resources that are available to them. Right now, even in hockey, there are a lot of mental health resources for players that are having issues, but the problem is they are not getting connected to them as often as they should, and a lot of times, players don’t know about these resources. They don’t know where to go, they don’t know what they are, they don’t know what is right for them or when to do it and how to do it. What we are trying to do is provide support for any of our clients; if they do need access to any of those resources, MindRight is a great way to figure that out and to navigate what you need and how to find it.”
Mattila and Brown both believe that one of the biggest hurdles individuals who may be affected by mental health issues face when seeking help is being able to quickly and easily find information and understand what resources are available to them.
“There are resources out there — it’s just making sure we connect those individuals to those resources and making sure that people are aware of them,” said Mattila.
By bringing together MindRight’s mental health resources and platform with HeadCheck’s extensive client base of more than 800 teams and organizations, Mattila feels the work he has been doing with MindRight will surely be able to help many athletes moving forward.