HAMILTON, ON – NHL legend Theo Fleury was the guest speaker at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation’s A Mental Health Morning on Thursday, October 10th at Michelangelo’s Events and Conference Centre. Sexually abused during adolescence by a trusted hockey coach, Theo found himself turning to addictive and self-destructive behaviours that eventually caught up to him, both personally and professionally. “And after all of the abuse from my parents, and my abuser – I took over the abuse and I abused myself.” reflected Theo Fleury. Theo Fleury is a Canadian-born NHL Legend. He won the Stanley Cup during his tenure with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and a gold medal with the Canadian Hockey Team in 2002. He scored more than 90 points a season four times in his career and scored over 100 points twice. But what these honours, trophies and statistics don’t show is that during his heroic hockey career, Theo was living with the effects of a troubled childhood and abuse.
“Both of my parents experienced childhood trauma in their life, and that manifested itself into addictions. My Dad was an alcoholic, and my Mom was a prescription-pill addict. So I grew up in a very chaotic, violent home.” Theo was both surprised and delighted to find nearly 600 people in the room at Michelangelo’s at 7:30 in the morning. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m on the road a lot and it’s pretty lonely sometimes…to have a room of nearly 600 people talking about mental health, this early in the morning is overwhelmingly positive and says a lot about your community.”
At the event, the winners of the 2019 St. Joseph’s Spirit of Hope Awards were announced. Three awards are presented annually to an organization, a youth, and an individual who have overcome significant mental health or addiction challenges, or who are making significant contributions to mental health and addiction services in the greater Hamilton community.
The Paul Hansell Foundation was selected as the recipient in the organization category. Brian Hansell established the foundation in 2010 in memory of his son, Paul, who passed away by suicide. The foundation promotes programs for the emotional wellbeing of youth in the hopes of preventing other parents from losing their children to suicide. Since 2010, the Paul Hansell Foundation has raised more than $500,000 for mental health charities and causes.
Fifteen-year-old Andrew Poirier was the recipient of the youth award for his fundraising and awareness efforts for Wounded Warriors. By making and selling birdhouses and educating the community about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Andrew has raised more than $8,000 to help train and provide service dogs to military veterans living with PTSD.
Angela Jaspan was the recipient of the Individual Spirt of Hope Award. Angela has been living with schizo-affective disorder for most of her adult life. But through programs offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association, and care provided by the Cleghorn Program at St. Joe’s, Angela learned to not only manage her illness, but transform her lived experience into a way to help others heal. Angela is a member of the Mental Health Rights Coalition’s Peer Support Program and the Talking About Mental Illness (TAMI) program. She has also been trained in Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills. Angela now puts all of this experience, education and training to work as a part-time peer support counselor in the mental health and addiction program at St. Joe’s.
To conclude his speech, Theo wanted to leave the audience with one, final, salient message:
“At the end of the day it’s community. When you leave here today think about how can we create a safe space in our community where we can talk about this stuff.”
For more information on how the funds raised by St. Joe’s Foundation are supporting patient care, research and education at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, visit www.stjoesfoundation.ca.
About St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and its Foundation:
St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton is an acute care, teaching and research hospital with three sites and is affiliated with the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University and Mohawk College. The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton was established in 2014 and, recognized as a research hub, has been named one Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals for seven years in a row. For more information, visit: www.stjoes.ca. St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation raises and stewards funds to support exemplary patient care, research, equipment and education at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and in the communities we are honoured to serve. Since 1970, the Foundation has reached out to the community for donations, big and small, to help our Hospital acquire new equipment, fund patient care programs, build new facilities, and conduct vital research programs. To learn more, visit: www.stjoesfoundation.ca.
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St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton
905-522-1155 ext. 33506
Director of Communications
St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation
905-521-6036 x 35986