Ex-NHLer Clint Malarchuk talks suicide survival, mental health in Regina

Clint Malarchuk was candid as he recalled one of the darkest moments of his life while in Regina Wednesday ahead of a speaking appearance at the Conexus Arts Centre.

“One day I just went behind the barn and had a gun and was thinking about it,” he recalled. “I was shooting some targets. Then my wife came home and she said ‘what’s wrong?’ She could tell something was wrong.”

In 2008, nearly 20 years after suffering through one of the most horrific injuries in NHL history, the former goaltender was “spiralling down slowly.”

For over a decade, he had been on medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. But he said it was an undiagnosed mental illness, amplified by another NHL incident similar to his, that led him to try to take his own life.

“I said ‘I just, you know what I feel like? You don’t know what’s going on in my head’ and I put the gun under my chin and I pulled the trigger.”

Miraculously, as his story goes, Malarchuk survived the suicide attempt.

Shortly after, he entered a six-month mental health treatment program. It was there that he was finally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“That’s when I started to heal. Acceptance of my disorder was the first step,” Malarchuk said. “It was a long six months. I’ll tell you that!”

Malarchuk said that when he first suffered his NHL injury, “PTSD wasn’t even a word.” Up until his diagnosis, he said he dealt with his mental illness struggles with a “cowboy up” attitude.

That’s part of why he’s taken his tumultuous life story on the road. His appearance at More Joy Regina, an event focused on promoting mental health and wellness, was the latest in a string that goes back five years.

I think we’ve progressed a long way with our therapies, medications, counselling, diagnoses, but there’s still a stigma,” he said. “That’s why people don’t step out right away and get the help they need because they’re afraid.”

He said he’s made it his mission to share his story of survival to help others who may be struggling with that mentality.

“I know what it feels like to feel alone, like you’re the only one. It’s something that I think I’ve been spared to do this.”

Malarchuk plans to continue his work as a professional speaker. He said the response he gets is the ultimate affirmation that he’s doing a good thing.

I get feedback, emails, all these things. And I’m like ‘wow, there is a lot of Clint Malarchuks out there.’”

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.

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