It’s okay to not be okay. I know that. Jonathan Drouin knows that. Hopefully, you know that too.
My name is Tony Ferrari. I am your favorite bald draft analyst and contributor to The Hockey News. I am the guy in the pink hoodie and backwards dad hat. I’m a father of two amazing boys. If you’ve gotten to know me at all personally, you know I’m always making jokes and smiling. If you take me at face value, I’m a pretty happy guy.
We don’t always see what’s beyond that face value though. I suffer from moderate-severe anxiety and a sleep disorder that prevents me from getting my recommended eight hours a night. I regularly function on four hours of sleep. I have anxiety attacks that have paralyzed me in my place. I have taken medication at different points in my life to help. It’s okay to not be okay and Jonathan Drouin speaking out showed that.
Drouin’s interviews with RDS and TVA were his first public statements on why he left the Montreal Canadiens last season for what, at the time, was deemed personal reasons. In a season in which the Canadiens went to the Stanley Cup final, Drouin was away dealing with a battle of far more significance. Drouin revealed that he has been dealing with anxiety and insomnia that affected his ability to not only play hockey but live a normal life.
Drouin didn’t know what he was dealing with at first. Like many who suffer from mental health issues, there was a hesitance to seek help. “When I first started feeling anxiety, it was difficult to go see someone or ask for help. I wasn’t able to recognize my problems or what was going on.” Drouin explained RDS.
Recognizing a problem exists is often said to be the first step. With mental health having a stigma around it, recognization often ends up being the only step. Identifying and seeking help is often far more difficult.
“It was really last year that it clicked. I went to get help, I went to surround myself with people so that now I know what’s going on, I can see the little moments that give me anxiety, so I’m much better equipped to handle it now than I was before.” said Drouin as he spoke about his journey over the last five months.
That click that Drouin mentions is a pivotal moment. It is a moment where you realize that you need to seek help for yourself and those in your life you care about. It is often a moment where you feel as if you’ve let yourself or others down, making it even more difficult to admit to yourself.
I remember my ‘moment’ like it was yesterday. I dealt with anxiety in my teens but had ‘gotten over it’, but it had never been like this. I was dealing with stress from work and life, carrying that home with me on this particular evening. I burnt dinner. I stubbed my toe. I spilt milk. My day was going about as poorly as it could have gone and I could feel my anxiety boiling within me.
It was bedtime for the boys and it was solo dad duty that night. As the boys climbed into their bunk beds, I tripped on one of their toys and ripped a shelf off the wall trying to catch myself. I broke some toys and wall decor during my fall. Sitting there on my backside, I broke. I began to cry and just sat there paralyzed and unable to move.
My oldest son, who was seven at the time, came down from the top bunk and put his hands on each side of my face. He lifted my face up from my lap and looked me in the eyes and just said, in a moment that was wise beyond his years, “Dad, I love you. It’s okay. I’m here.” Instantly, I calmed down.
I sought help because I had hit a point in which I never wanted to hit. My son, who is just a young kid, had to step up and be there for me in a moment when no one else could. While I will always appreciate that moment for what it led me to do, it is not a memory I would have scripted into his life. There were things from my past that led to the state I was in that day.
Jonathan Drouin didn’t reveal his ‘moment’ and he shouldn’t have to. Dealing with mental health is an incredibly personal issue. It takes courage to do what he did though. Talking openly about his struggles could not have been easy, especially in a sport where players are glorified for gladiator-like behavior such as playing through punctured lungs or broken bones.
We live in a society that has struggled at times, especially recently, to care about our fellow human beings. We like to talk the talk but rarely do we walk the walk when it comes to mental health. We have companies running nationwide mental health campaigns that then lay off massive chunks of their workforce within a few days despite receiving government subsidies meant to sustain their workforce.
After months of public commentary that was often born from sports fans full of idiotic tendencies assuming Drouin was being soft or selfish, the Quebec native inspirationally stood up and spoke his truth. Why some of the public felt the need to attack him for stepping away from a children’s game will never make sense. We need to be better as a society when dealing with mental health.
Drouin is going to be at Montreal Canadiens training camp and he will be vying to get back to the form that once made him one of the more exciting young players in the game. He will be doing that with the tools he needs to help him perform at his best because he made the decision to step back from the game of hockey to seek help.
We don’t know how well Jonathan’s season is going to go this year. In all honesty, it is a small factor in the grand scheme of things. Seeing Drouin in a better place mentally is what matters here. We need to appreciate that every time we are faced with the reality that mental health struggles exist in all walks of life.
Drouin wants to be a voice in helping destigmatize mental health. We all should be doing what we can to help in that regard as well. It’s okay to not be okay.
If you or anyone you know is in need of help, please seek help.
Suicide prevention hotlines:
Canada - 1-833-456-4566
United States - 1-800-273-8255