Speaking up about mental health

NHL player Jordin Tootoo talks about mental well-being and resilience

June 17, 2015

Professional hockey player Jordin Tootoo has witnessed first-hand the devastating impact that mental health and addiction issues can have on families and communities. In this video, he talks about his personal experiences, and shares a hopeful message for young people living in Canada's north.

Transcript – Video with Jordin Tootoo

Well, growing up in the North has its challenges and I've been through a lot of ups and downs throughout my life. As a young kid I enjoyed playing in the outdoors with all my friends and understanding why that was. Obvious living in a household where not a lot is being said away from home, I realized that my friends were dealing with the same issues. On August 28th, 2002, that day changed my life forever. My brother Terence took his own life and through all the trials and tribulations throughout my career, that day changed me forever. I was drinking a lot, doing a lot of things that weren't right for my body and for me personally. It started to affect my hockey career and now that I've been sober for the last 4 years, it truly gave me an opportunity to live life right and understand that you learn from your mistakes. For me it was about my hockey career and knowing Terence wanted me to pass on his legacy and make sure that when someone you love passes away that's a time to think deep and understand that it's not all about them. You have to move on and turn the page. Yes, it's been tough, but at the end of the day, you got to make sure you look after yourself first and foremost. In order for me to do that, I had to make sure that the drinking part was really taking control of my life and my hockey career like I said, four years ago, I became sober and today I'm sober and I'm so grateful for that.

On August 28th, this date will be always remembered, and my brother Terence left me a note, which had three lines; "Jor, go all the way. Take care of the family, you are the man." With that note that he left me, Terence was the kind of guy who motivated you and helped me get to the next level. By those three lines; "Jor, go all the way," that was meaning make it to the NHL, take care of the family. I love my family to pieces and I'll go to war for any of them. He was always a guy who praised me and his last line was "you are the man". He was a very unselfish person that always enjoyed watched me grow as a person and as a hockey player.

Every day I think about; how could I better myself to prove to him that I'm doing everything that I could to keep his name and his legacy on? The Tootoo brothers will always be held closely to my heart and every success that I have, I give credit to my brother Terence.

Growing up in the North, I think the biggest thing is the community aspect of everyone being close to each other and helping each other out.  I could remember as far as I was five years old, being out on the land and experiencing cultural and traditional things though my father. I still admire being on the land with my father because this is where he is at his best. These are moments that I never forget. The last 12 to 15 years I've been living a pretty fast pace life with my hockey career and living in big cities but every time I get home, spending time out on the land is so peaceful and humbling and it just brings you back down to earth. Life's not all about a calendar and a time table. It's not about cellphones and social media. When we're out there it's about living in the moment and enjoying each other's company. This is something that a lot of people don't realize. That when you're in the middle of nowhere and no one can contact you, this is where you feel at peace and that's where my heart is at. The title of my book All the Way: My Life on Ice, I wanted to make sure that I tied in the note my brother left me, which was: ‘Jordin go all the way. Take care of the family, you are the man'. And, My Life on Ice this is what I love, my passion, my determination, my courage, all that comes from the stem of how I grew up mentoring my brother. It something that took a little while to make sure that I had those pieces tying together.

Things don't just happen overnight. There's always light at the end of the tunnel and there's always someone there to give a helping hand especially in our communities where everyone knows everyone. Sometimes you don't want to talk about your problems but trust me this is something that everyone needs to understand. It's ok to open up and be honest and make sure that there is always someone there to listen. Like I said before, we all are battling a fight that no one knows about until you speak up.

Jordan: What did you love most about when I proposed to you?
Wife: That it was a complete shock. Oh my gosh!
Jordan: Or that the ring didn't fit you.
Wife: Yeah. Rember how much my dad was like "Get away from the water! I don't want you to be by the water, you're going to drop it!"

I think the most important thing is to know that you have a support group that is always going to have your back and for me that's my family. I can probably count on my one hand the people that I'm closest to and not afraid to talk about any concerns or any issues that I have. I think this is something that our youth, our adolescents, need to understand. People in your communities are battling the same problems and just have an open mind and make sure that the end result is not going to be suicide.

I'm so grateful for this opportunity to help raise awareness as this holds near and dear to my heart. I started the Team Tootoo Fund to raise awareness for suicide prevention and youth at risk. Let's all together fight this fight that we know we can overcome. 

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