By Kristy Koehler, February 12 2021—
For mental health advocate Bob Wilkie, the COVID-19 pandemic posed some unique challenges, but also motivated him to reach out and help people that he knew would be struggling even more from all the upheaval.
His organization, I Got Mind, promotes the importance of mental health in sport. With the onset of the pandemic, I Got Mind’s in-person events were cancelled, but Zoom provided new ways to get creative with outreach.
“We developed more relevant content to deal with the things that people are struggling with, the excessive stress, depression and not knowing what to do or how to get feeling good again,” said Wilkie. “It’s been a fantastic year in being able to support people who need the help.”
I Got Mind has grown from just a handful of staff members to 15 this year and they’ve expanded their offerings as a result of the transition to online delivery methods.
“We’ve really worked hard to make things engaging,” he said. “There’s a live polling feature where we ask people questions and they’re able to start to use their voice a little bit. It creates the understanding that we’re all kind of going through similar things so automatically we don’t feel alone anymore. It’s not that people don’t want to talk, it’s that they don’t know how to talk. Zoom has allowed us to have small group sessions where everybody starts to learn how to say what’s going on within them.
“The thing that we’ve learned in our lives in dealing with mental illnesses and the crisis that it can create is that crisis also brings opportunity. The conversations have been fantastic. To be able to share the experiences that we have about when life has done this to us before has been extremely valuable. It’s providing a lot of hope.”
On Friday, Feb. 12, the Calgarian and former NHL player will be hosting a webinar about just that — Finding Hope. Stories will be shared by individuals who have endured life’s challenges and successfully used hope to move forward in their lives. Storytellers
include Olympic skier Ben Thomsen, Hockey Night in Canada panelist Kelly Hrudey and people from all walks of life who have overcome obstacles.
Wilkie says the event will be particularly beneficial for athletes. The COVID-19 pandemic, he says, has “taken their world away.”
“It’s wreaked havoc on mental well-being because it’s nothing but chaos. There’s no future it seems because they just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
For young people who haven’t experienced such upheaval before, Wilkie says the stories that will be told at Finding Hope should prove to be inspirational and stimulate conversation.
He says the pandemic is a “big test” for everybody, particularly student-athletes for whom Wilkie shared a personal message:
“Things always work out. That’s a thing I’ve learned in all the disappointments and challenges I’ve faced in my life. Get back to work. Do things you know you need to do. Finish your schoolwork. Figure out a new workout routine, anything to make you feel good about what you’re doing. When things get back to normal and the opportunities come, make sure you’re ready. The worst thing you can do is fall into that pit and not be prepared.
“It’s gonna be okay. If you’re willing to do a bit of work and learn some new things to help yourself this won’t be the worst experience you’ve ever had — it will end up being one of the best when you look back at it. I know that’s hard to see right now but life has taught me that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
For his own well-being, Wilkie says meditation has been extremely helpful, as has knowing that his outreach efforts are helping others.
I Got Mind has partnered with the Flames Foundation, who Wilkie says has been a great partner and supporter with similar values of providing solutions and helping people who are struggling.
Finding Hope will take place over Zoom at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12. There are 500 seats available and registration is available online.