Province investing in mental health support, healthy sport culture
TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing up to $125,000 in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division to continue building on the international success of Rowan’s Law, which has created a safer environment for athletes to play sports. The funding will help raise awareness of the impact of sports-related injuries on mental health and provide educational resources to coaches and parents to help them recognize the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression to ensure young athletes receive the essential supports they need to thrive.
“This year, we mark the fourth-annual Rowan’s Law Day as sports safely return in our communities and schools,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. “As a world leader in concussion safety, it is imperative that Ontario continues to raise awareness around concussions and its lingering impacts on an athlete’s physical, emotional and mental health. Rowan’s Law remains the cornerstone of our commitment to building a safe sport culture for all athletes. No athlete should be subject to physical or mental harm when participating in sport.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association will use the funding to expand its educational programs promoting the mental health of young athletes and will include:
Interactive e-learning modules for coaches
Educational videos for young athletes tailored to specific age groups and specific content such as mental health vs mental wellness and dealing with stress, anxiety and depression
A Mental Health and Amateur Sport microsite to serve as entry point to modules, videos and downloadable resources/social media assets.
The government today also released the third Rowan’s Law progress report, profiling the province’s leadership in the field of concussion safety. The report outlines the successful implementation of the majority of recommendations from the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee.
To date, Ontario has completed 13 of the 21 recommendations put forward by the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee, with an additional four recommendations set to be implemented by March 2022.
“Half of Ontario’s population will have or have experienced a mental health challenge by the age of 40, with approximately 70 per cent of mental health challenges having their onset during childhood or adolescence,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I am committed to working with Minister MacLeod to ensure our children, youth and their parents have access to the highest quality mental health supports, while also having the important conversations regarding concussion awareness and education.”
“Ontario created mandatory learning on the risks of head injuries and concussion awareness to honour Rowan Stringer’s legacy and to save lives,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “As students return to more normal learning this year – with sports, physical education, and other activities – this is a timely reminder of our shared obligation to student safety in the classroom, the playground, and sports field.”
“The Canadian Mental Health Association has a proud history of supporting the mental health of athletes through our partnerships with junior hockey, post- secondary athletics and minor sports,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario. “We’re excited to work with the government to provide further mental health supports for the amateur sport community, providing athletes life skills they can use on or off the rink, court or field of play.”
Rowan’s Law (Concussion Safety), 2018, was passed with unanimous support in the Ontario Legislature in March 2018. The law designates the last Wednesday in September as “Rowan’s Law Day” in honour of the memory of Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old Ottawa rugby player who died in the spring of 2013 from a condition known as Second Impact Syndrome, or a catastrophic swelling of the brain. Ontario is honouring Rowan’s legacy by making sport safer for everyone.
Concussions represent more than 20 per cent (or more than 1 in 5) of Ontario student injuries treated by a physician or nurse practitioner. Ontario students who report a head injury are more than twice as likely to report high emotional distress and less success in academics.
In 2020, the government invested $200,000 toward a documentary being developed by the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada to highlight the impacts of concussions in amateur sport and showcase Rowan Stringer’s life. The documentary is scheduled for release in 2022.
Beginning January 1, 2022, Rowan’s Law will require amateur sport organizations to establish removal-from-sport and return-to-sport protocols to ensure an athlete is immediately removed from sport if they have sustained a concussion or are suspected of having sustained a concussion. The law will also require athletes to get medical clearance from a physician or nurse practitioner before they are permitted to return to training, practice or competition.
As of July 1, 2019, athletes, parents, coaches, team trainers and officials have been required to review the concussion awareness resources and their sport organization’s concussion code of conduct, where applicable.
Story and photo courtesy of the Government of Ontario.