Terry Trafford's teammates resume their season on Thursday (OHL Images)
No one has all the answers about what happened to Terry Trafford. The death of the 20-year-old hockey player, though, surely means the Ontario Hockey League's approach to mental health failed, even if it's not completely broken.
On Thursday afternoon, Trafford's autopsy report concuded that he had died from asphyxiation and it was determined to be self-inflicted.
Whether Trafford had been medically diagnosed with depression or was taking medication to manage it is beside the point. Not all with depression and its related disorder, social phobia (commonly called social anxiety), handle it with meds, speaking from my experience. The depression aspect was raised by the Toronto native's girlfriend, Skye Cieszlak, and men tend to be more likely to confide their fears to their partner, mother or sister. Perhaps establishing, or denying, depression is paramount for the sport's gatekeepers while emotions are so raw and the grief-stricken are looking for someone to blame.
The loss of a young life must not be in vain. If that's to be, the OHL will have to examine how its structure as a "results-driven business that just happens to employ minors" — to quote a blog post by Jamie McKinven, coach of the Junior A Kingston Voyageurs — factors for mental health.
[Sunaya Sapurji: Terry Trafford’s former teammates
remember a prankster and a teammate that always had their backs]
Each of the 20 OHL teams, as commissioner David Branch confirmed to Yahoo Sports on Thursday, is required to have a player liaison program. Each team designates a person not formally connected the club — examples can range from a pastor, to a police officer, to a social worker — whom a player can speak to with the expectation of confidentiality. The liaison, however, does not have to be trained in spotting signs of either depression or social phobia. One is often called the silent killer and the other is jointly called the invisible handicap, with good reason. The Guelph Storm is the only team that lists a sports psychologist, Dr. Neil Widmeyer, on its website.
Therein lies the crack that a young life can fall through.
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