Canucks Launch New Initiative, Website to Raise Awareness about Mental Illness.

Here’s the touching PSA, in which Bieksa talks about his departed friend: Rick Rypien

Rick Rypien’s passing on August 15th 2011 was a massive emotional blow to the Canucks, and their fans. Today, in honour of Rypien and his legacy, the Canucks Fund for Kids in concert with Fraser Health and Provincial Health Services Authority, and BC Children’s Hospital launched an initiative to raise awareness about mental illness, and to provide young people affected with a resource to help them cope. You can read the full press release from here.

As I’ve previously written about at length, I lost a friend to suicide and mental illness as a teenager, so this is an issue that is extremely close to my heart. The way the team handled Rypien’s illness when he was with the organization, the grace shown by Bieksa, Gillis and the entire team in the wake of Rypper’s untimely death, and this latest endeavor to honour #37’s memory in a positive, hopeful way makes me extremely proud to be a Canucks fan.

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The initiative has been a long time in the making, with Gillis hinting that the team would take up the mantle of raising awareness for mental health in late August. As Ed Willes wrote at the time: "If Rypien’s story can compel one person to seek help; if it can put a human face to this debilitating disease, then, maybe, some value can come of this." That’s what is all about.

You can learn more about the campaign itself at: From what I gather, the site is the focal point of the team’s awareness effort. It includes resources pages with a wealth of information about dealing with stress, substance abuse and depression. It has a unique page for those who work closely with young people, and for those who have family or friends who are dealing with mental health issues. Please check these pages out if you are concerned for someone you’re close with, or want to know more about the mental health issues that young people deal with.

The site also invites users, Canucks fans and those who have experience dealing with mental illness to create a video and "speak with one voice" about these issues. The videos are intended to be somewhat akin to Dan Savage’s "it gets better" series, and look to be the fulcrum of the "awareness" flank of the Mindcheck campaign. If you fit the description, and have a story that could make a difference, I urge you to do so.

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The T-Shirt worn by Bieksa in the PSA will be available for sale at the Canucks Team Store, with all proceeds going to the Canucks Fund for Kids to support raising awareness for mental health issues. I couldn’t find it on-line at the moment, but I’m going to buy one the minute that becomes a possibility. There will also be "Rypien Packs" that include the t-shirt, a pin, a commemorative Rypien magazine and other  goodies on sale at tonight’s game for 37$ with the proceeds going to charity.

On a personal note, sometimes we get caught up in the frivolities of being sports fans. We argue endlessly, and without any sense of perspective or proportion about Hodgson’s ice-time, Schneider vs. Luongo or the way a certain fourth liner uses Twitter. It’s fun, but lost in the constant din, sometimes, is the commitment the Canucks franchise has shown throughout my life-time (some would say it started during the Pat Quinn era) to promoting good causes in the community. Under Mike Gillis’ stewardship, that commitment has continued, with being the latest example. It’s a reminder that, lack of cup banners aside, we’re lucky we get to root for this team.