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Slash the Stigma raises funds, awareness for mental health initiatives

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Hockey action from the Slash the Stigma tournament in Norwich, March 18-20. (Submitted)
Hockey action from the Slash the Stigma tournament in Norwich, March 18-20. (Submitted) jpg, TN

As intended, the Slash The Stigma (STS) hockey tournament in Norwich March 18-20 brought positive attention to and conversation around what historically has been a taboo topic.

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It also raised close to $30,000 in support of area Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) initiatives.

“Amazing, just amazing,” said Fund Development Coordinator, CMHA Thames Valley Addictions and Mental Health Services (TVAMHS) Stacey Robinson, shocked with STS organizer Kelsey Van Ymeren’s final $29,013 tally. “We both kind of stammered a bit, he was like, ‘I can’t even believe it.’”

Van Ymeren’s motivation to run a fundraising and profile-raising tournament in support of mental health combined very personal family and community connections with a long-standing love for hockey.

“We didn’t think we’d have as many teams as we did,” he admitted of what morphed into a 200-player, 14-team event, divided into self-identified A and B Divisions.

“We just got such a huge response.”

Traction developed not only in the hockey community, Van Ymeren continued, citing and crediting overwhelming response from the broader Norwich area, business and individual, in terms of sponsorships, donations and volunteers.

“So many people came out,” credited co-organizer Taylor Schut, who came up with the event’s name and associated Facebook page (Slash The Stigma). “The support was there, they just needed someone to get it up and running.”

The tournament’s opening face-off was contested inside Norwich’s Nor-Del Arena Friday, March 18 at 7 p.m., and following a full slate of Saturday games, the final whistle blew Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Funds were raised through entry fees, sponsorship, raffles and proceeds from The Blueline Room.

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“More than blown away by the community support,” said Robinson, as well as ‘awe-inspiring’ stories shared during the event. “And the courage it takes to do that.”

‘Slashing The Stigma’ recognizes historical shame and embarrassment around mental health challenges, which courageous individuals and positive initiatives are helping overcome.

“Education is the key, really,” says Sue Forbes, Regional Manager CMHA TVAMHS, Oxford.

“There was… is stigma around mental health,” agreed Van Ymeren. “Like we said before, no one wants to talk about it.”

The event’s hockey and financial impact are undeniable, but he will also remember meaningful and deeply appreciated conversations around a subject which typically does not arise, a vital part of lowering that associated stigma.

It’s not interaction which can or should be forced, he concluded.

“But have the understanding it does affect everyone whether you admit it or not, whether you accept it or not, or even know it or not.”

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