It was a routine Tuesday for Calder Anderson and his three teammates, Jake Chiasson, Nolan Ritchie, and Ben Thornton  A workout and practice at the rink, followed by a volunteer event at the Samertine house, a local foodbank in Brandon, Manitoba. 

On their drive back from volunteering, they noticed a man standing on the edge of a bridge. Seeing the man was visibly in distress, the boys made the decision to turn the vehicle around and check on him. Little did they know how heroic that decision would end up being.

 As Calder approached the man and asked him if he was alright, the man informed him he was struggling mentally, and his thoughts had gone to a pretty dark place. Calder listened to the man and reassured him that, in that moment, he was there for him. The boys stayed with this man until emergency services arrived to assist. As a result, the four young men were able to prevent someone from ending their life, demonstrating empathy and kindness. SOS Safety Magazine had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with Calder  Alderson, recounting the events of that day and the importance of having open conversations about mental health. 

SOS: To start, tell me about you and how long you have been playing for the Wheat Kings

Calder: For sure, my name is Calder Anderson. I’m 20 years old. I’m actually from Brandon. This is my first year playing for the Wheat Kings. I’ve played in the Western league for four years, my first three for the Moose Jaw Warriors. In the summer, I got traded to Brandon, and I thought it would be pretty cool to place my last year at home. So it’s my first year in Brandon, and I’m super excited. 

SOS: Has it been fun playing in your hometown? 

Calder: Yeah! It feels a lot different from playing away from home, that’s for sure. Getting to wake up in my own bed and a two-minute drive away from the rink is a lot better than living four to five hours away from home. 

SOS: We know why we are sitting down to have this chat today. Take me back to the very beginning of that day. What were you doing that day? 

Calder: It was a Tuesday, the middle of the week, and it was a normal day for us. I checked in, in the morning at the rink, had a workout, and then on the ice in the afternoon for an hour or two. So it was a pretty routine day, and then after the rink, we did a little volunteer work at the Samartine House in Brandon, a local food bank. After that, we were doing some driving around town, and that is when we spotted the man. 

SOS: You see the man on the bridge. Some people would have just kept driving. What made you guys turn around? 

Calder: I think his body language was the biggest thing for us. It was easy for us to tell he was in a lot of distress, and it was in our human nature for the four of us to stop and make sure he was okay. Especially for me and Nolan Ritchie, we are both from Brandon. I think that was a big part of it. It was in our hometown, so it was a bit more home-hitting for us. 

You see something like this in your community, and you want to step up and make a difference. 

SOS: You get out of the vehicle. What do you do from there? 

Calder: The first thing I did was ask if he was okay, and he informed me that things weren’t great for him and he was having some pretty tough thoughts. 

The second thing I asked was if he needed any help. And I talked to him for what felt like 20-25 minutes, but in reality, it was only five or ten [minutes]. I wanted to keep my distance from him. I didn’t want to get too close to cause any more stress or anxiety. But I was able to talk to him until the Police showed up and were able to take it from there. 

SOS: Were you afraid to approach the man? 

Calder: I wouldn’t necessarily say I was afraid to approach him. I wasn’t scared of him at all. I was more scared of what he might do if I was to get too close. 

So I tried to maintain my distance the best that I could. As much as I wanted to go over there and help him off, I didn’t want to cause him any more stress and anxiety, [and] the fear that he might slip and fall off. 

So I kept my distance and used my words to communicate with him. 

SOS: Have you had experience with someone in a similar situation like this before?

Calder: I have definitely had friends who have dealt with stress, anxiety, and depression in their lifetime. And as I grew older, you realize it’s becoming [a more talked about] topic in society. 

Nothing to this extent. I don’t think you expect to go through a situation like this in your lifetime. So I’ve never had anything like that happen before. But I have definitely had to talk with friends about difficult times they’re going through for sure. 

SOS: How did you feel while all of this was unfolding? What was going through your head? 

Calder: Life got pretty real for a couple of minutes. My adrenaline was going pretty crazy. I could feel my heartbeat throughout my whole body. 

In the moment, I don’t think I felt any emotion. I was so in the moment and focused on the situation and didn’t feel any emotion until I got in the car after. After I knew he was safe and that the Police had got control of him, that’s when I felt all the emotions. 

It was definitely mixed emotions; Stress, happiness that he’s okay, but sadness of seeing someone in a spot like that, and you realize that happens more often than you think. It wasn’t until after I got in the car the emotions started to hit a little bit. 

SOS: We touched on this earlier, but did you have any “training” on what to do if you were ever in a situation like this? Or were you acting off or with pure intuition of what to do? 

Calder: With the Western Hockey League, we do courses throughout the year that talk about mental health and things of that nature. As I said before, you expect to never go through something like this in your lifetime. 

But a big part that helped me is that mental health is a topic talked about in our society a lot, especially in sports, too and being around the rink and having that to talk about helped me a lot. It was in mine and the other three guys’ human nature to make sure this man was okay. 

SOS: Have those mental health courses been around the entire time you have been playing in the Western Hockey League? Or are they fairly recent?

Calder: I think they were around my first year in the league but maybe not as much as they are now. You see a lot of hockey players, and not even hockey players, a lot of athletes come out and say that their mental health isn’t great and they have to step away from the game. So having [mental health] be a topic lately in the sports world has greatly brought attention to it. 

And we’ve been talking more about [mental health] in the dressing room and presentations. So it’s definitely become something we talk more and more about.

SOS: It must be a safe space to talk about mental health with your teammates at the rink who you are so close with. 

Calder: Yeah, absolutely. The biggest thing, too, is going back to how hockey was played 50 years ago. Mental health wasn’t really a thing back then. And if you had those feelings, you weren’t tough, or you weren’t strong enough. 

[Mental illness] is a disease a lot of people don’t understand; it’s something you can’t control. 

SOS: In terms of the incident, is there anything, in particular, you said to the man contemplating committing suicide to change his mind? 

Calder: My biggest thing is I wanted him to know I was there and cared about him. Just talking to him for a few minutes there, it seemed like he didn’t have a lot of people in his life who were there to care for him. So I wanted to be one of those people, and even though I didn’t know him at all, you could see his body relax and settle down a bit. 

Once I asked if he needed help, I told him I was there and cared about him. In that situation, he just needed someone to talk to and care for him. 

SOS: Was there any point you were afraid he might still jump? 

Calder: There were three or four times where I thought he might jump. I got him to sit down at the very start. He sat down on the ledge, and every so often, he would get up and tell me he was going to [jump]. 

So, that’s when your heart starts to race a little bit faster. But, like I said before, life gets pretty real in those moments when he was standing up and looking down at the railroad tracks beneath. We were lucky enough that we got to the end of it, where he didn’t jump. 

But we talked about what would have happened if he did. And I think we would have been hit pretty hard by it. We were lucky that he didn’t decide to do it. 

SOS: What would you tell someone struggling with their mental health? 

Calder: As I said, with this guy, it seemed like he didn’t have anyone who was really there for him. And I think the biggest thing for people struggling with mental health is that they find it hard to talk about it when they are struggling. 

I think a lot of people don’t understand there is always going to be someone who cares. I think for everyone who struggles with it, there is always one person going to care and is going to help.

Whether you know them or not. For instance, I didn’t know this man at all. But we were fortunate enough to be the ones there. I think for anyone who is going through something like that. There is going to be someone willing to talk to you and care. So never be afraid to open up and talk about things. 

SOS: Do you feel this experience has changed you in any way? 

Calder: Yeah, I think so, for sure. Growing up my whole life, I was a part of a super happy family and have always been a hockey player. And being a hockey player in Canada, you get pretty lucky. You get treated pretty well. Playing in the Western League, you never really go through moments like what I went through in your life or expect to go through them. 

Going through this situation and realizing there are people who struggle and get to an extent like that. It definitely makes you mature a lot, and being a 20-year-old kid. I’m still in my young years of life. Even though I feel pretty old, I’m still quite young. It made me mature a lot and opened my eyes to how much people, even in my hometown, are going through things like that. I’m just glad I could step up and help this guy. 

If you are someone you know is struggling with their mental health, you don’t have to do it alone. Visit the link below for mental health services.

Written by Paige Gordon