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Ex-Canucks goalie Hirsch to talk mental health with B.C. construction

Peter Caulfield
Ex-Canucks goalie Hirsch to talk mental health with B.C. construction

Retired NHL goalie Corey Hirsch has just been named the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC’s (ICBA) Wellness Ambassador for 2022.

In January, Hirsch will embark on a “Just One More Day” mental wellness speaking tour throughout British Columbia.

Hirsch will speak in Victoria (January 20), Surrey (January 21), Fort St. John (February 3), Prince George (February 4), Kamloops (March 10) and Kelowna (March 11).

Tickets, which are free, can be reserved at

After hanging up his skates, Hirsch became a mental wellness advocate.

In his playing days he struggled with mental health. When panic attacks and severe weight loss meant he couldn’t play any longer, he asked his team trainer for help.

Hirsch was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and got the treatment he needed.

Hirsch’s speaking tour is part of the ICBA’s Workplace Wellness program, which was launched in April 2021.

“The program was developed for the unique challenges in construction,” said association president Chris Gardner.

According to WorkSafeBC, mental health claims in construction were up by one-quarter between 2017 and 2019.

And more than one-half of employed people who have died of opioid overdoses in BC recently worked in construction.

Fortunately for sufferers, there are plenty of professional mental health services available. 

There are also online sources of mental health information, where they can get answers to common questions on the subject.

A good place to start is a look at the mental health continuum model.

“It’s a visual tool to gauge and track your state of mental wellness,” said

Aaryn Secker, director of education and training in the BC division of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“If you’re in the green zone in the model, your priority should be to protect your mental health,” said Secker. “Stay connected with family and friends, get plenty to eat and sleep and stay in good physical shape.”

If you’re in the yellow or orange part of the continuum, pay attention to early warning signs and talk to a friend or co-worker about how you’re feeling.

“Make lists for yourself of small, manageable goals that are easy to accomplish, to keep your morale up,” said Secker. “Be patient with yourself and set your own expectations, not someone else’s.”

If, however, you believe your head is in the red zone, Secker says to talk to a doctor right away.

Some important mental health phone numbers for BC construction workers to know: BC Mental Health Support Line – 310.6789;  HealthLink BC  – 811; Crisis line – 1.800.784.2433.

One of the most common mental health challenges that male construction workers, and men in general, face is depression, says John Ogrodniczuk, University of British Columbia professor of psychiatry and founder of HeadsUpGuys, an online resource for men with depression.

Depression is a serious condition, says Ogrodniczuk.

“It’s an ‘upstream indicator’ of the potential for suicide that needs to treated promptly,” he said.

Ogrodniczuk says there are many misconceptions about depression that keep men from talking about it.

“It’s a myth that depression is a sign of personal weakness,” he said. “In fact, it’s a real illness.”

Another common misperception is that men shouldn’t ask for help if they’re feeling down.

“Consulting others for direction and guidance really means taking control;  it’s the smartest thing you can do,” said Ogrodniczuk.

Vancouver psychologist Gregory Feehan says depression can have many different sources.

“Significant, persistent pain can lead to depression,” said Feehan. “And a concussion or workplace bullying and harassment can result in depression.

Whatever the cause, get help in the early stages.”

Vancouver kinesiologist and massage therapist Kerri Blackburn has a construction worker patient in his early 30s who had a concussion when he struck his head on a steel beam (while not wearing his hard hat).

“The concussion prevented him from taking part in his normal sporting activities that he enjoyed so much,” said Blackburn. “It made him depressed, and the depression lasted for months. He felt very lost.”

Burnaby psychologist Chris Rowe knows all about the connection between physical and mental pain. He cut trees for 20 years before he traded forestry for psychology.

Rowe has some practical suggestions to reduce the odds that physical stress can turn into the mental kind.

“If you’re a construction worker and you get injured, your income will take a hit,” said Rowe. “Prepare an emergency fund by putting away some money regularly. Don’t go too far into debt and don’t spend too much. That way, if you do get injured and have to take some time off work, your convalescence won’t be too stressful.”

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