McFadden’s Movement comes home to Kincardine

Section: 
Sports

By Pauline Kerr

Garrett McFadden brought McFadden’s Movement home to Kincardine on Sunday, June 11.

Garrett McFadden with some fans at the Kincadine Library on the weekend. (Pauline Kerr photo)

 

One might ask why the captain of the OHL’s Guelph Storm would be speaking to a group of youngsters, parents and other community members about mental health.

Fortunately, he’s as fearless talking to a group of people in his hometown library as he is on the ice. “A lot of guys think being in the OHL, I’m living the life,” said McFadden. “There’s more to it than free sticks and skates.”

McFadden explained his first experience with mental health issues was when he lost a close family friend to suicide. Wes Cameron was only 16 when he took his own life in 2011. Like McFadden, Wes was a talented young hockey player with a good future ahead of him. “He always had a smile on his face,” McFadden told the group at the library. “He seemed to have everything in line.”

What McFadden described as the “unthinkable” hit hard. “It happened so quickly.” How someone like Wes could hold so much inside him, so no one knew what he was battling, made McFadden think about the issue of mental health, how it affects not only the person and his immediate family, but also the wider community.

Wes became the inspiration for what McFadden started doing a year ago – starting his own foundation to speak to young people, to get them to open up and seek help if they need it. Initially the focus was on schools, but then shifted to high-level young players. Now that the hockey season is over, McFadden is taking his message back to schools and the community – how mental health issues can affect anyone, and if they do, who to go to, who to talk to, and how to take those crucial next steps.

McFadden described his own experiences with mental health issues. Getting drafted by the Storm was a dream come true in many ways, but it meant moving a couple of hours away from home, living with a host family and attending a new school. “For a kid just turning 16, I didn’t think it would be such a challenge,” he said.

Then came a year of sitting out a lot of games. He’d gone from being one of the better players on the Highlanders, to being one of the worst players with the Storm. For a youngster who’d confidently seen his time with the Storm as “a brief pit stop” on the way to an NHL career, it was a hard hit. So, too, was getting cut from the U-18 Canadian team. “It was the first time I’d ever been cut from anything,” he said.

Then came a series of injuries, including getting hit in the face by a puck and having his jaw wired shut for six weeks over Christmas. “I lost 25 pounds,” said McFadden.

After that came a bad year for the Storm in general, with only a handful of wins the entire season – again, very hard to take for an ambitious and talented young player who was now an assistant captain. The shock of having a player quit the team hit hard.

What got him through it? McFadden described the benefits of being able to talk to his mom, and to sit and talk to a couple of friends, sometimes just drinking coffee and playing video games for hours.

He spoke about talking to the younger players on the Storm, getting them to open up. And he spoke about “taking negatives and turning them into positives.” He has high hopes for his team this coming season. “It should be pretty good,” he said.

McFadden told the Kincardine audience about how he’s learned to face “the adversity, the pressure to perform, the injuries, losing, not being good enough” that challenge even a gifted player like himself. “I try to draw a positive out of everything,” he said.

For McFadden, the numbers speak for themselves regarding mental health. “One in five Canadians will have a mental health issue… five in five will know someone who does.” That’s why he’s teamed up with Wes for Youth, to reach out to young people in a way they can relate to.

He uses his own experiences to reach out to youngsters. He knows first-hand about being tough on the ice. But he also knows about being tough off the ice. And that means reaching out, “talking about stuff” and not trying to hold everything inside.

Jackie Ralph from the CMHC said both she and McFadden would stay after the presentation if anyone wanted to speak one on one. She returned to the one-in-five statistic McFadden used, adding that only one in five of those with a mental health issue will get help. It’s something that desperately needs to change.

She spoke of the stigma that surrounds mental health, and how an upcoming event, Ride Don’t Hide aims to end the stigma. Ride Don’t Hide is in less than two weeks, but there’s still time to sign up.

McFadden and Ralph both stressed that there is help. Speak with a friend, a teacher, the principal, a coach. Go on-line. Make a call. Drop in at the CMHA office in Kincardine. Get help.