“I owe my life to this game.”
That’s how Jordin Tootoo summed up his 15-year NHL hockey career when he retired in 2018. Thanks to teammates who helped him grieve the loss of a brother to suicide, Tootoo went on to thrive on the ice for the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks.
On Wednesday, he shared the story of his journey with Red River College students, instructors and staff.
Tootoo’s visit is part of RRC’s college-wide mental health strategy, Healthy Minds Healthy College, which was established five years ago to foster mental health and enhance mental health literacy at the College.
“It’s part of Canada that a lot of people struggle with mental health and addiction, suicide. These issues are a national epidemic.”
Of Inuit and Ukrainian descent, Tootoo is the NHL’s first Inuk player. As an Indigenous athletic leader, he says he has long understood his responsibility as a role model. He spoke openly and honestly to an audience of more than 300 RRC students and staff about the growing need for mental health resources, and the importance of fighting taboos around discussing mental illness.
Following his retirement from hockey, Tootoo devoted his time to charity and community outreach, especially in northern communities. He was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his work in Nunavut promoting healthy living and encouraging conversations about difficult topics such as addiction and suicide.
“We want today’s audience to know that resources are always available to help face those challenges, including resources here at Red River College. We’re so grateful to our Students’ Association for helping make today happen.”
At the same event, RRC President Darin Brecht announced the College is now offering students free access to a digital mental health therapy service called Beacon.
Students can access Beacon anywhere, anytime, from their digital devices. They can contact their therapist whenever they need to while working at their own pace.
“Across the country, colleges and universities are seeing an increase in students who have difficulty developing and maintaining good mental health, who enter their studies with pre-existing mental illnesses, or who experience their first episode of mental illness during their time as students,” says Brecht.
“Red River College is in no way different. In the last five years alone, Counselling and Accessibility Services has noted a 50 per cent increase in students registering for services with an identified mental health concern. We’re partnering with Beacon because they understand how hard it can be for college students to access mental health resources, and they’ve found an innovative and accessible solution to removing those barriers.”
Tootoo’s visit was live-streamed to the greater College community. Watch it here.