NHLPA members break the ice in support of 9-8-8

Joseph Woll and Ryan Strome joined Dr. Jay Harrison and Papa Roach frontman, Jacoby Shaddix, for the Breaking the Ice panel during Canadian Music Week in support of 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline.

NHLPA members break the ice in support of 9-8-8

Featured Photo: Grant W. Martin Photography

When NHLPA members Ryan Strome and Joseph Woll were asked to be part of a mental health discussion alongside Papa Roach frontman, Jacoby Shaddix, the trio was more than willing to answer the call.

Presented by Canadian Music Week, the panel on June 5 titled Breaking the Ice: Uniting Rock Stars and Athletes in Mental Health Advocacy was held in support of 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline on behalf of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. 

The panel was moderated by Joey Scoleri, Live Nations SVP of industry relations, featuring Strome, Woll, and Shaddix, alongside Dr. Jay Harrison, former NHL defenceman and NHLPA wellness, transition and performance specialist, and Stephanie Carter, CAMH director of operations.

The idea behind Breaking the Ice was to empower others to prioritize mental well-being while delivering the message that help is available to anyone who needs it through numerous services, including the 9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline, which launched in Canada in November 2023. 

“It is [the panel] all the things I am passionate about music, hockey and mental health so it is a nice triple crown of things that I like to talk about,” said Woll. “Typically, when people are struggling, from experiences in my life with others I know, different people I have known and things that I have seen, depression and anxiety can be a very isolating thing.

“There is sometimes a sense of not wanting to talk about it and being perceived as weak, but talking about whatever it is that is affecting you is so important. Just talking about it can be a big hurdle to get over, but the best thing to do about it, I find, is to talk about it.

“I see it as a step of bravery to talk to someone you are close with that's the first step towards helping yourself.”

Strome agrees.

“Whether it is a parent, teammates or someone else, you have someone in your corner.”

According to CAMH, over 4,000 Canadians die by suicide every year an average of 11 per day. In a 2019 survey of working Canadians, 75% of respondents said they would be reluctant or would refuse to disclose a mental illness to an employer or co-worker. As noted on the American Psychiatric Association website, more than half of Americans with mental illness don't receive help for their disorders.

Candid conversations can aid in reducing the stigma around mental health and can encourage those who may avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently or fears of losing their jobs and livelihoods.

“I know it is easier said than done, but talking to someone can make all the difference in the world.

“That’s why something like the 9-8-8 number is so important,” continued Strome. “There is someone on the other end of that line who is going to pick up, listen, hear you and recognize you.

“They will open the door to other services that are available to you. We need to let people know the services are there and that you don’t have to suffer alone.

“It’s hard to pick up a phone. It might feel like a thousand pounds to say you need help but suffering in silence there is no peace. It feels like a hopeless place. This number is there so you don’t have to suffer in silence.” 

Shaddix is a ongtime champion for mental health awareness, including through Papa Roach’s music.

The two-time Grammy nominated band’s debut single, the acclaimed and influential Last Resort, is a song Shaddix has described as a “cry for help.”

“Mental health help isn’t a one-size-fits-all. There is not just one way to heal. This 9-8-8 number is a way to help open doors to get the specific help you need and deserve.” 

Shaddix, who has been open about his own mental health struggles, is encouraging others to do the same.

“For me, it’s important to use our platform as artists to do something positive,” Shaddix told NHLPA.com. “We are in the middle of a mental health crisis and suicide crisis, so partnering up with NHL players and the NHLPA and being part of this is so important. 

“I want to use our platform to speak life and to speak hope.”

Strome, Woll, Shaddix, Carter and Scoleri also addressed the stigmas associated with mental health at Breaking the Ice. 

“It [mental health struggles] is something every human experiences to a certain degree,” shared Woll. 

“Whatever it happens to be, it's important to have the stigma evaporated as much as possible.”

It is also important, said Strome, for people to recognize that mental health affects everyone, including high-performance athletes. 

“As a hockey player, there are times when you tend to keep things to yourself, but with so many resources now, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't reach out to someone who wants to help you. The NHLPA has done a great job of being there for players at every turn. 

This January, the NHLPA launched First Line, a peer-to-peer mental health initiative specifically for NHL players, which was developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Opening Minds and the NHLPA’s Health and Wellness Team.

“As athletes, we have an opportunity to be role models. But we are humans too. We are vulnerable and we have things that we go through as well,” Strome continued.

“I think it is about putting yourself out there. I have been given the chance to learn from some great people. It makes you want to run towards the challenge, not run away from it,”

Shaddix agrees.

“The destigmatization of mental health is first and foremost it is a big deal. 

“I struggled with reaching out and then one day, I said, ‘I can’t do this alone. I need help.’ Once I did that, there were so many people around me who helped and cared.”

Papa Roach’s most recent contribution to mental health advocacy is the single, Leave A Light On (Talk Away The Dark).

Royalties from the song are being given to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in perpetuity. The band also donated over $150,000 in the name of fans in cities throughout the United States. 

“We have been doing that [speaking about mental health] since our first single,” noted Shaddix. “It’s awesome that the public and society are opening up more and more to this dialogue.”

Breaking the Ice was one more way for Shaddix to support mental health as it relates to people, programs and others.

“My takeaway from Breaking the Ice was that everyone who was part of the panel discussion was vulnerable and open and honest,” said Shaddix. “That dialogue, I believe, would help someone who is struggling on their own. It is important to have those conversations and to keep having them.”

Shaddix has plans to keep in touch with Dr. Harrison for that very reason.

“I love Dr. Harrison. We exchanged numbers. I told him that we have to stay plugged in. 

“I admire what he has done in his hockey career and to take what he has learned from playing and to give back to the game as a doctor.

“His initiatives are awesome, and they are helping people.” 

As is Shaddix, who wanted to share a message for those struggling and thinking about calling the Suicide Crisis Helpline 9-8-8.

“I urge you to call the number. Talking about it is the first step in recovering your life. 

“Fight for yourself because you are worth it.” 

If you’re thinking about suicide, feeling like you have lost hope, or worried that someone you know may be considering suicide, you don’t have to face your problems on your own. You can call or text 9-8-8 from anywhere in Canada for a safe space to talk. Support is available 24/7, in English or French. ‚Äč