The Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation and the provincial government are launching a joint mental health initiative that aims to provide high school students with a textbook featuring mental health resources and discussions about wellness with soccer players.

The Game Changers Playbook provides mental health resources for educators and staff to help youth manage their mental wellbeing.

“Those programs weren’t even on the radar [when I was in school] It was something that wasn’t normal to talk about,” said Dan Clark, a veteran offensive lineman for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and ambassador for the foundation, Thursday at Sacred Heart Community School in Regina, Sask.

Clark suggested that the stress on youth from the COVID-19 pandemic, including moving to and from online school, has shown student resilience. He said it was rewarding to be able to help them with their mental well-being.

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The playbook includes lessons from various youth mental health organizations such as Kids Help Phone and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

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

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

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Players discuss stress management strategies like box breathing or how to tell good stress from bad stress. Schools will be able to book these presentations in the coming months, according to a press release from the Roughrider Foundation.

“It will be tremendous for these kids to hear such an important message from people they already give so much credibility to,” said Saskatchewan Secretary of Education Dustin Duncan.

He said the province has made students’ mental health a priority as part of its tentative educational plan, echoing Clark’s comments that mental wellbeing is much more of a priority than it was when he was young.

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