Lacombe Generals send support to teammate suffering mental illness

The Lacombe Generals took a moment out of celebrating their 2019 Allan Cup victory Saturday to send well wished towards teammate Giffen Nyren, who has been dealing with depression and mental health. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Lacombe Generals took a moment out of their 2019 Allan Cup festivities Saturday to acknowledge and send positive messages towards a teammate battling mental illness.

Giffen Nyren, 33, was charged with assault and willfully resisting or obstructing a police officer in downtown Kelowna, B.C. in April after an incident where he allegedly grabbed a child from its parents, then left the child, before stripping off his clothes and trying to swim away in Okanagan Lake. Police ultimately arrested him once he was brought closer to shore.

Generals General Manager Jeff McInnis said it weighed heavy on his mind.

“There’s a young man who I’ve grown to love as a friend and he’s now, since July we’ve found, been suffering from depression,” he said. “We saw hints of it this winter and we tried to distract him and probed, but you’re not sure what’s going on.

“He’s lost his bearings and his footing in life and so we have to help him – he’s no different than you or me and that mental illness is a real deal…We’re backing him as much as we can.”

He said players talked quite a bit about them in the dressing room Saturday and the team as a whole wanted to do something to show their support and send him well wishes.

At the tail end of Mental Health Week, however, the incident perhaps brings to light the need for teams – Generals included – to reevaluate how they approach dealing with players’ mental health.

McInnis says mental health is one of those things often heard about, but it’s always been someone else. Now that it’s one of their players, it’s something they need to address.

“He was here, but his mental wellbeing – he wasn’t the same guy we knew and when I would probe I couldn’t quite get to the bottom of it, but now I think to myself we need to treat mental illness a little more importantly with our men,” he said. “They’re going through a really tough stage in life where they’re exiting their athletes’ status of life – going from “pro to joe,” as we say. That’s a hard pill to swallow for them.”

He said they’ve brought alumni and others who have gone through mental health issues of their own and are ready and willing to provide Nyren counsel and support in whatever way he can, and help Nyren recover. Mental health doctors have also been brought on board to build a “web of support” moving forward.