Jets executive Craig Heisinger creates organization in memory of former Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien

"He was only here for 27 years. His life was way too short. He had support from family and friends and he had professional help. But in the end, his problems were too much."

This was what Wes Rypien said about his son Rick in an exclusive interview with TSN for Mental Wellness Month.

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien lost his life to suicide on Aug. 15, 2011 shortly after signing with the Winnipeg Jets. According to the Vancover Sun, Rick battled clinical depression for years. He went through a lot in the decade before he took his life — such as the death of his girlfriend in a car accident in 2005 and a constant stream of injuries that slowed down his NHL career.

One of his biggest supporters was Jets executive Craig Heisinger, who would talk to him on the phone for several hours in the middle of the night whenever Rick needed him.

"Rick always spoke about, once he had his situation under control, trying to speak out and help people. At the end of the day, I hope something like that comes out of this," said Heisinger in the TSN exclusive.

In Rick's memory, Heisinger helped create the organization Project 11, named after Rick's jersey number. Project 11 was created to bring weekly lessons and daily activities about mental health to the classroom for students in grades 5 to 8. According to its website, Project 11 uses concepts such as practicing focusing the mind, increasing self-awareness of feelings and strengths, and building positive relationships.

Heisinger said, "Project 11, at the end of the day, is all about (Rick). He wanted to get his message out. He wanted his experiences to be able to help young people."

To donate, call Julie Chartier, director of Finance and Support Services for the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation at 204-926-5524 or make a check payable to the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation and mail to Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, 345 Graham Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 5S6.

Rypien's dad Wes said, "If there was a program like this available when he was in school, I think things could have been a lot different."

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