Sports can be seen as a release, but they can also cause high amounts of stress and anxiety.

University of Regina women’s hockey player Emily Middagh found the use of a service dog helps her deal with those pressures.

Middagh began feeling anxiety and stress when she went to St. Lawrence University in New York.

“The biggest one was fitness testing for my hockey team,” she said. “I was playing Division 1, so everything was very, very serious hockey-wise. So just having that pressure on me was just too much.”

The pressure became so much she tried to take her own life.

“In the moment, when everything was really bad I thought that I was alone, and I wasn't at all,” Middagh said. “I think lots of people do struggle with that, and if I can help open up one person’s eyes to realize that they have support when they're feeling like that, then that’s the least that I can do.”

While Middagh was on the road to recovery, she said doctors noticed her spirits rose when they asked her about her family dog.

This led Middagh to get River, her service dog, when she transferred to the University of Regina.

River travels with the team and attends practices, but his main job to help Middagh.

“He definitely gets me out of bed and gets me walking around,” she said. “He gets me doing stuff. He has a very big personality and I think it’s good because he’s always down to do whatever.”

Through her therapy, Middagh learned that she is not alone and there are supports available. As well, she’s learned to develop self-awareness throughout the process.

“It has made me realize what I want in life, and what I need in order to achieve happiness,” she said. “Just keep pushing, because it always does get better even when you think it doesn’t.”

Based on reporting by CTV’s Claire Hanna