Humboldt Broncos survivor encourages men to be open about mental health issues

·2 min read

Twenty-two-year-old Tyler Smith says it took him a long time to realize his recovery from the deadly Humboldt Broncos crash was going to be about more than his physical health.

Smith — originally from Leduc, Alta., — survived the crash that killed 16 people and injured 13 others. In April 2018, a semi failed to stop at a highway intersection and collided with the Broncos' team bus.

"I almost put everything on my mental side on the back burner," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It wasn't until about November of 2018 after the accident that I actually started to realize that, OK, I need to do something about my mental health as well."

Now, Smith is open about his mental health, and wants other people to be the same. He knows it's hard, he said. In the beginning, he had no idea where to start, a journey he uses to encourage others, especially men, to take the first step.

"It's the biggest, bravest, most courageous step you can take, but once you take that first step, [you're] realistically, hopefully going up from there," he said.

Smith said he and the surviving members of the team are a brotherhood. Everyone is there for whatever a team member might need.

"I think [it's] been a big, vital part of everybody's recovery, for me especially. I don't want to speak for all the other guys but I just love having those guys and being able to send a text or whatever it may be to connect."

Movember a perfect starting point

A few years ago, Smith became involved with Movember, an annual event in November where men grow moustaches to raise awareness of men's health issues.

"I think Movember's just the perfect platform for men, especially [those] who don't know where to start or don't really know how to begin their journey of potentially healing and growing and recovering with whatever they're dealing with," he said.

"I love growing my moustache especially."

He said even his girlfriend is starting to come around.

"She loves it as well."

Getting over the trauma and aftermath of the crash required support, something Smith said he didn't embrace right away.

"Now that I've been through this, I realize that there's no shame in crying with a bunch of your friends or just showing emotion in front of all your friends, because if they're truly your friends and they truly care about you, then they'll do whatever you need.

"If you have the right people around you, then things will truly work out."