The Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation and the provincial government are introducing a joint mental health initiative meant to provide students with a playbook of mental health resources and discussions about wellness with football players.

The "Game Changers Playbook" contains mental health resources for educators and staff to help youth manage their mental wellness.

"These programs were not even on the radar [when I was in school] it was something that was not normal to talk about," said Dan Clark, a veteran offensive lineman with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and an ambassador with the foundation, said Thursday at Sacred Heart Community School in Regina, Sask.

Clark suggested the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth, including shifting to and from online schooling, has shown the resiliency of students. He said being able to help them with mental wellness is rewarding to him.

The playbook includes lessons from different youth mental wellness organizations like the Kids Help Phone and Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Mitchell Picton, a wide receiver with the Roughriders, speaks to a class at Sacred Heart Community School in Regina, Sask. (CBC)

The playbook is one-half of the mental health initiative. About six players, like Clark, will also visit classrooms in the province during the off-season to discuss mental wellness with the students as part of the Win with Wellness presentation series.

The players will discuss stress management strategies like box breathing or how to recognize good stress from bad stress. Schools will be able to book those presentations in the following months, according to a news release from the Roughrider Foundation.

"For these kids, it's going to be huge to hear such an important message from people that they give so much credibility to already," said Saskatchewan Education Minister Dustin Duncan.

He said the province has made student mental health a priority as part of its interim education plan and echoed Clark's comments about mental wellness being much more in the forefront than when he was younger.

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