Kelly Hrudey brings awareness to mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

Former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey has never shied away from talking about mental health, and he is continuing to bring awareness to the important issue in an effort to help those struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

'Whatever we're all going through, don't discount it; it's real,' says former NHLer

Former Los Angeles Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey says bringing awareness to mental health is important right now with many people facing mental challenges for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Reed Saxon/The Associated Press)

Former NHL goaltender and current Calgary Flames colour commentator Kelly Hrudey has never shied away from talking about mental health, and he is continuing to bring awareness to the important issue in an effort to help those struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing measures and the current global health situation have increased the challenges faced by those suffering from mental illness, but Hrudey also pointed out that people are now dealing with new mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic.

The 59-year-old shared his thoughts and offered some advice amid the uncertain and unprecedented times.

"Whatever we're all going through, don't discount it; it's real," Hrudey said on Instagram Live with CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo on Friday. "Your feelings, your stress, your anxiety, your angst, it's all real and we'll get through it, but please talk to somebody about it."

'This affects all of us'

Hrudey opened up about his own challenges and concerns that have surfaced because of the pandemic, pointing out that it is normal to be struggling with mental health right now.

"This affects all of us, it really does," Hrudey said. "I have some really good days, and I have some really terrible days trying to figure out what's going to happen, not only in our lives but our kids' lives, because financially everything is changed for them."

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The issue of mental health is of personal importance to Hrudey, as his daughter, Kaitlin, has endured a battle with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder over the years. He said the topic is extremely important right now with so many people facing mental health challenges for the first time while in isolation.

"This is important to talk about because I doubt there is anybody out there that is sitting back and going 'This is great. I'm fine, I'm OK with the time off.' Nobody is feeling that way. We all feel alone at times, so this is a great conversation to have."

Hrudey said he recently spoke with fellow Canadian mental health advocate Michael Landsberg about the situation people are currently dealing with.

"Michael talked to me about his depression and another person in his life that he loves that has the same thing as Kaitlin, and they were saying 'Welcome to my world.' So all of us now are new with this pandemic and going through a strange time, and that person is saying 'That's what I've been living with my entire life.'"

Making progress

Hrudey is happy to see an increasingly large number of people, including athletes, stepping up to shine a light on mental health​​​​​​. He views it as a sign of progress that reflects the message on his T-shirt that reads "It's OK to not be OK."

"I'm extremely proud of the work that everyone has done raising awareness for mental health issues," Hrudey said. "Kaitlin went very public in 2013. We're so proud of her and how strong she is."

Hrudey acknowledged how far things have come regarding the openness toward conversations about mental health over the past 15 years, especially among males that might have previously felt shame and remained silent.

"This is so heartwarming to me that we can have this conversation and not be ridiculed," Hrudey said. "Most people would say 'What a step in the right direction.'"

'We still need to be louder'

But Hrudey also made it clear that there is still a lot of work that has to be done in order to continue the progress that has been made.

"We still need to be louder," Hrudey said. "We need to get governments to do more because it's not right that people have to wait in line for six months to see somebody. Our governments at the federal level, provincial level, municipal level, they have to be willing to give resources so people don't suffer.

"There are too many men and women out there who are suffering, and they shouldn't be."

Although Hrudey enjoyed a successful 15-year NHL career that included an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, he said bringing awareness to mental health ranks above everything else in his career.

"I'm really proud of my playing career, proud of my broadcasting career, but I think when it's all said and done I'll be most proud of the work my family and others have done in the field of mental health."

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