Notre Dame’s Carson McManaman uses tragedy to become mental health advocate

Kelly Friesen
Notre Dame forward Carson McManaman, right, has become a mental health advocate after losing his father to suicide.
Notre Dame forward Carson McManaman, far right, has become a mental health advocate after losing his father to suicide.

Carson McManaman wants to make a difference. It’s important, not only for him, but for his father as well.

It’s important because he lost his dad, Jamie McManaman, to suicide on June 23, 2016.

“It hasn’t been an easy ride, but my motivation comes from my father,” said McManaman, a senior at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask . “I try to make him proud every day, in some way. I have to keep going for my family too, having them see me thrive despite the circumstances pushes them as well.”

The 17-year-old is using his very personal tragedy to help others by becoming a mental health advocate in his community. He wants to send a message of hope to people suffering with depression. He especially wants them to know they’re not alone in their battle against mental illness.

“You can get through it, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” said McManaman on what he would tell people who are struggling with mental health issues. “Don’t be afraid to talk, people are always willing to help and listen. Remind yourself of the people you love, use that as motivation to keep moving forward.”

<em>Jamie McManaman with his sons, Carson, centre, and Logan, right. (McManaman family photo)</em>
Jamie McManaman with his sons, Carson, centre, and Logan, right. (McManaman family photo)

McManaman believes there’s a need to create more awareness for mental health issues, especially by increasing openness for people to discuss the topic. There is still a terrible stigma associated with the disease that often keeps people from reaching out for help.

“There needs to be more awareness, we have to consider treating mental health the same as an injury,” he said. “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. We have to end the stigma surrounding mental health, especially in sport, (with the notion) that you are weak.

“One in five Canadians suffer from mental health related illness, but only 43 per cent seek help. That’s a frightening statistic. There has to be more resources for people to feel comfortable coming out and talking about their mental health.”

As part of McManaman’s mental health initiative, he and his family are selling bracelets in memory of his father. Half of the money raised will go into an education fund for the McManaman children, Carson, his older brother Logan, 20, and younger sister Madison, 13. The other half of the proceeds will go directly to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“My family’s been selling bracelets in memory of my dad,” said the native of North Rustico, PEI. “They are $5 each… we’ve raised over $1,000 so far.”

McManaman’s strength and determination has not gone unnoticed by his peers at Notre Dame.

“Carson has been an inspiration to all of us at Notre Dame,” said forward Kane Altwasser, a classmate and teammate. “He’s shown great character and selflessness during this tough time.”

Understandably there have been bad days for the teen. One of the worst ones came in October when an opponent used McManaman’s tragedy to taunt him on the ice during the game.

“It made me sick to my stomach, knowing that somebody could go so low to get me off my game,” he said. “There’s a line in hockey that you don’t cross. It never really crossed my mind that it would happen, I thought nobody would have so much disrespect. After he taunted me, I stood up for myself, my family but most importantly my father.”

McManaman said he was lucky and grateful to have a wonderful support system in place for him with the Hounds. The community, his teammates and friends have rallied around him, particularly after the taunting incident.

“The support they’ve given me since day one has been outstanding,” he said. “It’s one big family that has your back no matter what, which is my favourite part of this school.”

Hockey has been a much needed escape for McManaman over the past five months. He’s also using it as a reminder and tribute to his late father, who shared his love for the game.

“Every time I step on the ice I know he’s watching, so I try to make him proud every day,” said McManaman. “It’s my release, if I’m having a tough day, hockey gets me through it.”

To donate or purchase a bracelet, with proceeds going to the McManaman education fund and the Canadian Mental Health Association email: carson.mcmanaman@gmail.com.

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