04/04/2013 20:06 EDT | Updated 06/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Tessa Bonhomme taking stand against mental illness

OTTAWA – Tessa Bonhomme knows what it is like to battle on and off the ice. She's won Olympic gold as a member of Team Canada and took top prize in the Battle of the Blades a few years ago.

Now you can add fighting mental illness to the list of things she is taking on.

Bonhomme was quick to put up her hand when members of the Canadian national women's team were asked to do a public service announcement for the Do It For Daron Foundation during the world women's hockey championship.

Daron was the daughter of former Ottawa Senators defenceman Luke Richardson who lost her life to suicide when she was 14. D.I.F.D. supports programs and initiatives aimed at transforming youth mental health.

"When I heard the story it really hit home. I had an aunt, Aunt Cathy, who suffered from mental illness,'' said Bonhomme on Thursday on an off day at the eight-team tournament. "It was a hard thing to go through and a hard thing to live through and I knew the trials and tribulations that someone who is going through mental illness goes through.

"One thing (her aunt) said to me was if there is anything you can do with Team Canada if you ever make it, try to create awareness for it."

Bonhomme filmed a segment in support of D.I.F.D. that was played on the jumbo screen at SBP during a break in Wednesday's 13-0 win by Canada over Finland.

Role models

She recalled that she reached Richardson family as soon as she heard they were trying to turn the death of their daughter into something positive.

"That's what we are all trying to do, be great role models in our community."

Bonhomme isn't the only Olympic athlete to get involved with mental illness. Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes has been very vocal in retirement about her battle with depression. Canadian tennis pro Rebecca Marino recently left the game as she battles mental illness.

Bonhomme feels by speaking out, athletes can reach young kids in need.

"These are young boys' and girls' role models. They are in the spotlight day in and day out. They are asked about lineups, and how the workouts are going. They do not really talk about (mental illness) so when you see someone build up that much courage to be able to talk about it in the spotlight, what they are going through behind the scenes, it is really big.

"It makes them human and it allows the young boys and girls who look up to them to realize, 'Hey there is someone I look up to and I am not the only one going through this.' So I feel they are generating and starting the conversation and that's what Do It For Daron wants to do and I think it is a positive thing to be part of."

Bonhomme paused before talking again about her aunt.

"I saw what she went through and how much of a toll it takes on a family and I think it is important for young kids and adults alike, if you are going through something, you are not the only one.

"So the best thing to do is start a conversation. It takes a lot of courage to speak up."