This year, Delta’s Interagency Youth Committee (with representatives from the School District as well as all our agencies who support our children and youth) met to discuss how we wanted to do something different for May’s Mental Health Awareness Week. An amazing opportunity came our way. We happened to see an article in the Province where a reporter spoke to Whitecaps player, Andy O’Brien, about his struggles with anxiety and depression that impacted his life and career.
When the Whitecaps were contacted to ask how we could bring Andy to Delta to talk to our students, they proposed a more exciting option – bringing our students to a Whitecaps game, and then meeting with Andy O’Brien.
On May 1st, 100 students from every high school across the district were bussed to a Whitecaps game where Andy O’Brien played as team Captain. The Whitecaps won an important semi-final match.
Even more importantly, after the exciting game, we were escorted to a banquet room where Carl Valentine introduced Andy O’Brien who shared his personal story for the first time with an audience. His honesty and “realness” touched both students and staff. As a male as well as an athlete, his message was powerful in encouraging individuals to not see personal struggles as a sign of weakness or embarrassment.
After he spoke, Andy stayed to have photos taken with every student who attended. Many students spoke to Andy and thanked him for his courage to share his story. Students are sending him personal thank you’s such as the following:
“I would like to thank you for bravely sharing your story with us. I think it’s important for kids to see that, despite our struggles, we can do great things. Many of us are dealing with mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and I’m sure you know as well as we do, just how hard it can be to face everyday things. We think you are amazing for staying strong under so much pressure. Your admirable strength to fight through it and speak in front of so many people has made you a role model.”