Mental Health Commission of Canada and NHLPA Launch New Leadership and Education Program
FIRST LINE is an education and leadership program developed to strengthen NHLPA members’ mental health knowledge and skills.
TORONTO (Jan. 10, 2024) – Today, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), in collaboration with Opening Minds and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), proudly announces the official launch of FIRST LINE, an education and leadership program developed to strengthen NHLPA members’ mental health knowledge and skills.
The first of its kind in professional sports, FIRST LINE was developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Opening Minds and the NHLPA’s Health and Wellness Team – specifically for NHL players. This program is designed to directly address the issues faced by players and their families.
FIRST LINE will:
- Increase knowledge about common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance use and self-harm;
- Provide skills for offering peer-to-peer support; and
- Educate about the stigma of mental illness and how to combat it.
“Collaborating with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to develop FIRST LINE builds on the diligent work by the NHLPA’s HEALTH AND WELLNESS TEAM, which brings value to players’ lives by prioritizing mental health well-being and enhancing the player experience,” said Marty Walsh, NHLPA Executive Director. “While the players have achieved great success in their careers as the best hockey players in the world, this does not preclude them from facing the same challenges that many others face.”
“We are thrilled to collaborate with the NHLPA on this vital and impactful initiative,” stated Shane Silver, Vice-President, MHCC and Opening Minds. “The Opening Minds programs have positively impacted more than 1 million participants worldwide, underscoring the universal importance of prioritizing mental health in every aspect of our lives, be it in our careers or personal spheres. I commend the NHLPA for their commitment to the well-being of their members and for adopting a holistic approach to health and wellness.”
To date, the FIRST LINE program has been delivered to 20 NHL players, with plans to train additional players across the NHLPA membership on a voluntary basis throughout the 2023-24 season and beyond.
“It is our goal that all players who complete the FIRST LINE training will be empowered to advocate for their own mental health while being supportive of the mental health of their fellow players and others,” said Dr. Jay Harrison, consulting psychologist to the NHLPA and former NHL player. “We are encouraged by the early interest and engagement players have shown in FIRST LINE, and we are looking forward to having a positive effect on their lives.”
FIRST LINE is a course that is designed to be completed in a group format, which is delivered either in-person or online. All players who complete FIRST LINE training will receive a certificate of completion from Opening Minds and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.