In our current issue of Moods magazine, we feature former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk. Born and raised in Alberta, Malarchuk is legendary for one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history when a wayward skate slashed his throat while playing for the Buffalo Sabres in 1989.
For years after that harrowing experience, Malarchuk struggled with undiagnosed PTSD, OCD, depression and alcoholism. Much of his suffering might very well have been avoided had he known more about mental illness; had he been comfortable asking for help; had he not felt ashamed, alone, and without options.
Fifteen years ago when Malarchuk tended goal, few people spoke openly about mental illness and team psychologists were not available to assist. Being a rugged guy with a tough job and a strong image to uphold, Malarchuk responded as many other athletes of that time did — he kept his feelings and emotions to himself, he struggled within while creating a facade of happiness and wellness.
Today, mental illness has become more widespread than ever before, yet many are still afraid to seek help even though we now have so much more knowledge and so many more options for treatment. Unfortunately, the stigma and shame of years ago are still very prevalent. Although people are starting to ask for help and share their stories, there are still many who hide their struggles. In order to change this, we need people to speak openly about mental illness, allowing others to realize that they are not alone — that they too may be helped. Through sharing, we “normalize” the topic of mental illness, we reduce the discomfort that so many feel, helping to remove the fear and shame that prevents so many from seeking help.
With the New Year commencing, I ask all of you to begin talking more openly about mental illness with your family and friends — to speak out and share your stories so that we may collectively make a difference. On a much larger scale, you may also publicly share your story with Moods magazine in our blog, on our website and in our printed publication. You may also wish to consider participating in one of the many awareness campaigns held by various organizations across Canada. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) holds their annual Transforming Lives campaign and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) offers many community initiatives held across Canada. There are also numerous national campaigns, such as the Bell Let’s Talk initiative and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health’s (CAMIMH) Faces of Mental Illness campaign. These are just a few of the initiatives available in Canada to build awareness and make a difference.
Today there is much more recognition and understanding of mental illness than ever before, however we still have a long way to go with respect to removing stigma and reducing the number of people who struggle in silence. We can all help to break that silence by speaking out and sharing. Look into the various initiatives taking place in your local area and see how you can help inspire change.
This year, let’s talk more. I wish everyone a Healthy and Happy 2016!