A Goal in Mind is a co-ed, recreational soccer tournament held in Waterloo Region in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), National. The second iteration of the event will take place on June 25, 2016. Once again, all event proceeds will go to CMHA, National. All it takes to register is a minimum $25 donation. Sign up today!
It’s a question I’m asked every day. More often than not it is I who is asking. Why?
Why coordinate a soccer tournament that fundraises for mental health initiatives?
My answer tends to vary from one day to the next, but what follows is a list of the common themes that tend to emerge.
Frankly and perhaps obviously, I have suffered from mental illness. It’s sort of an open secret that I still do. I suffer from depression and have for as long as I can remember (I have evidence of developing the illness at thirteen, though the roots surely reach further back still). I have had at least one major depressive episode, which at once knocked the wind and work ethic out of me. With support, slowly, I got out of bed and became who I am today. Nevertheless, I know the research works against me; the odds are that the aforementioned episode will not be my last.
A Goal in Mind, in this light, was an experiment, another straw to grasp at in my own personal battle for mental wellbeing. Google something like “doing good is good for you” and you’re bound to find research that purports the benefits of community involvement. I wanted to be selfish and to help myself. To get out of my own head, to forge something good, to see if that’d in turn do me some good.
Soccer brings me joy. I like to think I know a thing or two about playing and watching it, and that’s fair enough– I’ve ran on many fields and stared at many screens. A result of this passion is that I know heaps of people who also enjoy the beautiful game, people who wouldn’t think twice about an opportunity to kick a ball around.
Thus, at least in part, A Goal in Mind arose from the desire to get a big group of people together to play soccer simply because it’d be fun. The thought really took shape after I played in a charity soccer tournament downtown Toronto, organized by TSN’s Kristian Jack. The tournament, which raises for a football club in war-torn Gulu, Uganda, is the model from which A Goal in Mind derived. I wanted to bring a similar experience to Waterloo Region because I knew first-hand how much fun the format could be.
Jobs aren’t easy to come by for new grads. When the planning for A Goal in Mind began, I was wrapping up my undergrad without much of a plan for what would happen next. “It’d look good on a resume,” I thought, not just for me, but also for the friends who lend a hand in the coordinatation of the event.
Looking back, it definitely helped me. As things started to come together last year, my friends and I knew that we were doing something right. This gifted me a confidence that I could carry into any interview. I would emphatically recommend doing something similar if you’re stuck or foresee difficulty in your search. (Or, if you’re interested, why not help out with A Goal in Mind this year? Get in touch.) Initiative matters, for your resume, and also as I found, for personal growth.
Last but not least, I wanted to “make a difference” (I’m fully aware of the ambiguity). In terms of mental health and mental illness, the questions are tough and numerous, the needs are pressing, and it’s hard to know what a regular Tim’s-drinking Canadian can do to activate positive change. So, to be honest, I set out to see what would happen, alternating between pessimism and idealism.
So, how are we making a difference? We’re raising money. We’re promoting mental health (physical activity and compassion can go a long way). We’re keeping the dialogue open; the more we talk about mental health, the less daunting or taboo it will become to do so. We’re telling people that they needn’t whisper.
Most importantly for me, I like to think that someone out there has seen what we’re doing and thought, “I am not forgotten.” This person might not donate, might not participate, and might not let us know, but that’s not the point. If someone has felt we’re beside them in what has been a silent, solitary battle, we might just be a catalyst for better days. We are showing that we don’t have answers but we are trying, we are searching. I know what such a message can mean.
The conclusion I draw is that the reasons are disparate, evolving. Narcissistic, simple, lofty, compassionate. Human.
Human because it is all of these things at once and more.
Human because that is what I am.
Human because everyone has mental health.
Human because those who suffer from mental illness are brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends, colleagues, humans.