On Friday, February 2nd, McFadden’s Movement welcomed Jonathan Irvine as the MM27 Ambassador of the Game.
Friday’s Guelph Storm game was also the club’s fourth annual #TalkToday game in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington branch and Teachers Life, working to continue the conversation throughout hockey.
Jonathan, a 24-year-old and recent graduate of the University of Guelph, shared his experience with a close friend, Emma, in his second year of university that opened his eyes to mental health, making it a cause he now actively and outwardly supports.
“As the year went on, I started noticing changes in Emma’s mood — and before I knew it, we weren’t hanging out as much,” Jonathan explained, adding that this was when he became aware of Emma’s mental health issues, including generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and OCD. “She was having more frequent bad days, and she just wasn’t as happy.”
Over the course of the next two years, Emma’s state continued to get worse, Jonathan explained, offering that she just wasn’t quite the same person he had known a few years before, and eventually was often changing or cancelling plans, and becoming very difficult to get a hold of.
Later, in the Winter Semester of 2016, Emma was forced to leave her academics at the University of Guelph, and return home to Northern Ontario.
“That was one of the hardest times in my life,” Jonathan said, sharing that watching a friend driven out because of mental health issues was extremely difficult. “Watching Emma suffer the way she did definitely had a significant impact on my mental health as well.”
Jonathan explained how his own optimism turned into anxiety through the difficulty of trying to help Emma, and maintain the friendship in order to try to support her through her challenges.
“I felt like by trying to constantly reach out to Emma to offer my support, I was really bothering and suffocating her,” Jonathan said. “My mind was constantly telling me to try and reach out to her — I felt compelled to help her.”
Jonathan offered that these feelings eventually transferred themselves on to the other relationships in his life, all centred around the thoughts of losing Emma’s friendship, and others.
“Even to this day, I am still very anxious and careful about what I say and what I do,” Jonathan said. “I both hyper-analyze situations and am worried about hurting or bothering other people and it possibly leading to fractured friendships.”
Fortunately now, Jonathan shares that Emma is doing much better in her recovery, and is now busy with work and school. For Jonathan, his exposure to mental health through his friendship with Emma has turned him into an extreme advocate for mental health, he says.
“If I can save one person from having to go through what Emma had to go through, I will be a very happy person,” Jonathan offered, adding that he’s often thought of returning to school to possibly become a counsellor.
Through it all, Jonathan is left with one significant message.
“Never be afraid to talk about your mental health… The more we talk about mental health issues, the closer and closer we will get to destroying the stigma surrounding it.”
* Note: Permission was provided for Jonathan to share details regarding other’s personal experiences with mental health.