Owen has battled panic attacks since he was in grade two but it wasn't until he was 10 years old, suffering from 5-7, 2-3 hour panic attacks per week that his anxiety led to depression. He was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder and depression in the spring of 2019. One of the most special things about Owen is his willingness to educate others and speak openly about his mental illness. He has raised over $5000 to raise awareness for childhood mental illness and is currently selling his "Anxiety" hoodies and t-shirts, with all proceeds going to Buddy Check for Jesse.
Nervous about the upcoming hockey season, Owen had to put in some hard work and prepare for this season. We are happy to report that, although he battles anxiety every time he gets on the ice, he has succeeded multiple times in a row this season. Compared to last year, this is an incredible turn-around. What turned it around for him? He says it is the love and support from his friends and family. He has not been judged, treated differently or bullied because he is so open about what he battles. His Mom, however, believes it is more than just support (although that plays a huge part), it is the hard work he does at counseling, his willingness to accept his illness and his belief that he can and will always succeed against his illness.
Within all of that is the support he has received from sport. Owen has been lucky enough to have incredible coaches and teammates over the past few years who have battled his illness right beside him. Buddy Check for Jesse was a turning point for Owen in his continued recovery. All fundraising he does now is for Buddy Check. You can purchase a hoodie or t-shirt from Owen through his website by CLICKING HERE
Buddy Check for Jesse was created by Stu Gershman in memory of his son, Jesse Short-Gershman who died by suicide on October 29, 2014. Stu wanted to find a way to help his other sons grieve the loss of their brother and find an impactful way to honour the memory of Jesse. A pilot project was launched last year where about 200 teams received Buddy Check for Jesse packages that include coaches notes (to help the coaches discuss mental health challenges and how to be a supportive teammate), green tape (the color of mental illness) to tape the hockey sticks to show support for mental illness, information for the kids on mental health and what to look for in their friends and how to reach out and bracelets.
This year, Stu has been able to expand his initiative to over 1100 teams across BC and in a few specific provinces that have requested to participate. The official #BuddyCheckforJesse weekend is October 26 & 27 but Stu would like to encourage your teams to participate whenever they can. It is the conversations in the dressing room or on that ice that is why this initiative is so important. It impacted Owen in the most wonderful way and the goal is to impact more and more Owens every year and continue to expand the program, inspire conversations and help create educated, caring, supportive respectful players both on and off the ice.
Check out Owen's story in his own words here!