Let’s Talk About Stigmas.

Let’s start at the beginning: What is a stigma?

Sometimes we hear a word so often that it graduates into something of a buzzword, and after a while…we begin to tune it out entirely. We become so desensitized with it that it begins to lose its true meaning; its gravitas, so to speak. And this, I’m afraid, is one of the main issues with stigmas: the term itself seems to be getting in its own way.

A stigma, by definition, is when someone views you in a negative light because of “a distinguishing characteristic or trait that’s perceived as a disadvantage”. It is literally defined in the dictionary as “a mark of disgrace”. A negative stereotype. For the record, there are no “positive” stigmas. And for further context, a few of the synonyms for “stigma” are: Shame. Dishonor. Stain. Disgrace.

A stigma is, quite frankly, devastating.

The reason that understanding and recognizing stigmas is so important (and the reason I’m hammering this point home) is because stigmas are the predecessors to discrimination.

So what do we do about them?

It’s almost frustrating how simple it is: we normalize mental health.

When someone is struggling, we need to support them. And I don’t mean in a token, arms-length-away sort of way. I mean in a fundamentally, vulnerable, human sort of way. Because when someone is having a hard time mentally, I can tell you firsthand that the last thing they want to do is expose what they’re perceiving in that moment to be their weakness.

What we need is compassion. Sometimes space. Sometimes closeness. Often, we just need to talk. Or have someone comfort us. What we need is a platform to just express that it’s hard, that we feel weak, that it’s terrifying and humbling and not our fault but we feel guilty for it anyway…and to know that as hard as we’re trying to push through, we need a shoulder. We need it to be okay that we need a shoulder to lean on. To know that we’re not going to be in trouble for taking some time to heal. To know that this is normal and accepted.

The stigma lies in what our perception of “weakness” and “normal” is. Because we so often only celebrate perseverance, we forget to recognize the trials and tribulations in getting there. For some, just getting through the day can feel like running a marathon. We need to have the perspective that our perspective needs to be fluid and it must be able to change with each individual.

It’s actually quite easy to find common ground with someone who is struggling, because regardless of what they’re going through, the emotions we all feel are the same. We have all felt anxious. Worried. Devastated. Embarassed. Confused. These are all universal human emotions. The stigma surrounding mental health is that the fewer of these emotions that we feel – or rather, let on that we feel – the stronger of a human we are.

We need to normalize feeling things. We need to normalize that sometimes we won’t be at our shiniest. We need to normalize that having a bad day, or a tough week, calls for the entire village to take care of one of their own, without fear of judgement or repercussion.

Whether you’re the one having a tough time or the one supporting someone who is struggling, remember: mental health affects everyone. And we can unify – rather than stigmatize – the steps necessary to ensure that everyone has the support they need when they need it.

Because at some point, we all need it.

Kristopher Marks, courtesy of VIV Mental Health

Follow @vivmentalhealth on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook, and subscribe to the VIV Mental Health podcast on all major podcast platforms.

Just because we have not talked about Roller Derby in a while…

I am a Roller Derby fan. I’ll do my darnedest to convince you to go out to an event when events become a reality again. In the meanwhile, I’m stepping into a time machine that brings us back to May 9th, 2019.

That is when I released an article on Win Column Sports which included a short interview with a Roller Derbier that goes by the name Roxy Belleboa. Win Column Sports is now Love Wrestling so that story now only lives in my e-mail…until today!

When the original article was published back in 2019, Roxy Belleboa was a member of Oil City Roller Derby (OCRD). It was released just ahead of a tournament called “Flat Track Fever” which has been cancelled for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Instead of using a question and answer format, I’m simply re-posting Belleboa’s responses:

“So for our Flat Track team name. Our league does have the two co-gender teams, the Near Death Stars and the Space Oddities, but sometimes (like this tournament for instance) we don’t have enough players from one team so we mix them up and we get the Near Death Stars. Normally we would just use either The Near Death Stars or The Space Oddities name but for a tournament or game, but we get a custom to saying the Near Death Oddities so we just went with it.

We did play the FMRD (Fort McMurray) Crude assassins on March 9, 2018 with the OCRD Near Death Stars winning 214 to 157. In this game we actually had a lot of new skaters playing their first game with is so that was really exciting for them and us. We went into this game with a lot of nervous and scared skaters, but we always say that we play as a team and if we win or lose we do it as a team and we always have fun.

The CCRD (Calgary) Natural Born Thrillers and the SRDL (Saskatchewan)  Killa Bees have always been a good teams. Our ladies house teams as well as our ladies travel team have played them in the past with either loses wins or losses. Unfortunately it has been a long time since we have played them so it’s going to be a good few games especially since we have not played their co-gender teams yet.

https://twitter.com/flattrackfever/status/1127719548809957376?s=20

We have whats called “Watch Nights” where we all get together for a “team bonding” night at someone’s place and watch opponent games as well as our own so we get a feel of what the other team is capable of doing, but you never know until you are all lined up against them and ready to play. In this sport, player development can happen so fast. One day a skater is scared of hitting an opponent and the next they are clearing an entire line of apposing blockers.

Yes, my derby name is interesting and people do intend to laugh at it which makes me happy. I have been playing roller derby now 7 years. Six of them are with Oil City Roller Derby League and my fist year was with the Lakeland Lady Killer’s of Cold Lake.

My position in this sport is all. I am a jammer when my teams needs a “bull in the China shop”. I play pivot so my jammer’s have someone to rely on when they get tired and need to pass the star and I am a blocker. I have the ability to work with my blockers when we need to be strong but I can also play solo and become what we call “shinny” when we have a blocker on the apposing  team who is strong and making it hard for our jammer to get threw. I get “all in their business” so they pay attention to me and not their blocker’s or our jammer.

Being a captain/co-captain in a lot of work. I have been the captain of our travel team OCDG and the Dirty Harriets and now the co-gender team, The Near Death Stars as well as the co-captain for the same team.

Your main job is to make sure all of your skaters are ready to play. When a game is announced you have to with with your co-captain and check everyone’s availability for that date. If you have enough on your team thats perfect, if not, then you have to check with the other co-gender team to see who is available for that date. Once that is all solidified making sure everything is good to go, like the jersey’s colors, helmet covers are ready, make sure everyone know when to be at the venue (especially if it is an away game) and just checking in on skater’s up until the game.

In my seven years this game has changed so much. From the one whistle blow to let the blockers go then the two whistle blow to let the jammer’s go to how skaters would form up in a line across the track instead of the “diamond” formation. I love how this sport continues to grow and change and be inclusive so that everyone can play.

The million dollar question.. Well we need more coverage. Roller Derby in a whole needs to be out more and in people’s faces. I find that when I tell people I play roller derby they look at me funny and say ” they still do that?”. I am lucky to be apart of the first Roller Derby< league to start in Canada and sadly only a handful of people know this. We do get little shots of acknowledgement here and there, but we, as a sport, needs more overage so that everyone can enjoy the sport that we love, that I love so much.”

That is your trip down Roller Derby memory lane. Here is to the hope of creating more Derby memories in 2021.

Need a basic introduction to Roller Derby? CLICK HERE!

Allwest Powersports Statement on Castrol Raceway Dirt Track Oval Events

“Allwest Powersports looks to proceed with the dirt oval track schedule at Castrol Raceway this summer. It will be wait and see what the government protocols are. We might lose some race dates but keep May 29th and 30th circled on your calendars.
Phase 3 would have allowed race teams in the pit area and 200 fans following social distance rules like last year. I’m going to keep preparing, going to keep the equipment ready and keep the track in a state of readiness hoping for phase three to begin before May. There is no way of knowing what the future holds right now, everyone is following the numbers. No more next month, next month mentality by our government, now the focus is more on the number of Covid cases and hospitalizations. As these numbers decrease will we get more freedoms.”
The statements above are from Ed Wiersma of Allwest Powersports, the new promoter of the dirt oval race track at Castrol. They are a sigh of relief for racing fans who last week had to endure the sad news that Castrol was cancelling speciality events including the Rocky Mountain Nationals, Hot August Night and Monster Truck Throwdown.
To re-iterate Ed Wiersma’s statement, whenever the Alberta Government and Alberta Health Services green lights phase three, Allwest Powersports will be ready to wave the green flag on the 2021 Dirt Oval Track Schedule. For reference, here is the schedule:

Saturday May 29, 6 PM 

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock, Mini Sprints, ADSS Super Stocks, Legends

Sunday May 30, 5 PM 

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock, Mini Sprints, ADSS Super Stocks, Legends

Friday June 25, 7 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, Legends

Saturday June 26th, 6 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, Legends

Friday July 16, 7 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, ADSS Super Stocks

Saturday July 17, 6 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, ADSS Super Stocks

Friday August 13,  7 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, Legends

Saturday August 14, 6 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, Legends

Saturday September 4, 6 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, Legends

Sunday September 5, 5 PM

Sportsman Sprint, Late Models, Mini Stock,Mini Sprints, Legends

Allwest Powersports might lose some race dates as per Covid cases and hospitalization numbers but if legislation allows the plan is to move forward with the races. The hope of course is as the season progresses, Alberta is able to move forward with their re-launch platform and allow more and more fans to attend the events.