Former NHL player shares his mental health journey in Fort St. John

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Former NHL player Corey Hirsch was recently in Fort St. John to talk about mental health and wellness in the construction industry.

Last year, the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA) announced that Hirsch was joining its team as a wellness ambassador.

During their time in the region, Hirsch spoke at three separate events, according to Chris Gardner, president of the ICBA.

“We did an event at Black Diamond Camp with 200 pipeline workers,” said Gardner.

“We did a breakfast in Fort St. John the next morning, and we were very pleased to have Mayor Lori Ackerman join us and then that evening, we drove out to the West Moberly First Nation for a community event. Each one of those events, Corey was very well received.”

Gardener says the association has developed a mental wellness program for construction professionals, with more than 7,000 people enrolled in the free program.

ICBA partnered with Corey Hirsch to help get the message out about this program and lessen the stigma surrounding mental health.

“If you look at construction, suicide rates are five times the national average and ICBA has 125,000 people on one of its health and dental plans, and on every single one of those plans, the drugs prescribed for depression, anxiety, sleep disorders rank in the top three,” Gardner said.

ICBA’s president says the speaking tour started with only six cities, but it has grown. They’ve held over 25 speaking engagements now, with more planned for the future.

It starts with one engagement session, said Gardener, then grows by word of mouth as members begin asking for them to come and speak at their work site or company.

Hirsch says they are targeting the most vulnerable, and that happens to be those in the construction sector.

“We’re trying to encourage men to come forward and speak a little bit more, but that doesn’t discount our females, that’s just as important but three of four suicides are male,” Hirsch said.

He says the “suck it up” mentality that is instilled in most men almost killed him.

“I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through,” he said, adding that almost all mental health problems are treatable.

Hirsch says he teamed up with ICBA because “I see how compassionate and empathetic they are, and how much they want to help people” and “we have the same goals, ideals and plans, which is to help people.”

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