Mental health is often perceived as a highly taboo subject should not be discussed. In reality, mental health issues can be as simple as stress or depression caused by a big life change or the pressure of working in an intense environment, but still, few people try to talk about it. Binghamton Devils forward Nate Schnarr decided to become an ambassador for McFadden’s movement to break the stigma and help spread positive awareness about mental health in sports.
McFadden’s Movement is a non-profit started in 2016 by Schnarr’s Guelph Storm teammate, Garrett McFadden. The movement aims to eliminate the negative stigma of mental health that surrounds athletes by emphasizing the significance of talking about issues and encouraging those who may feel ashamed to speak up.
Since starting McFadden’s Movement, McFadden has discussed his personal story regarding mental health with hockey teams and schools. He also has worked to raise money for various mental health resources, including a free online counseling service called WES for Youth Online.
Working through his own struggles with the stress and pressure that a young, professional athlete may feel, Schnarr related with his Storm teammate, who eventually asked him to become an original MM27 ambassador. Because of his respect for McFadden, as well as his history, Schnarr gladly accepted his role model’s offer and he was thrilled to do what he could for the movement.
“I think it’s an issue in society that has to be talked about and if I can make a small impact, it can change someone’s life,” Schnarr said.
“Nate has been a huge supporter of [McFadden’s Movement] and has helped us to grow the foundation so much through sharing his own story and supporting us on social media and during our events and fundraisers,” McFadden stated of Schnarr’s involvement. “Breaking down the barrier between pro athletes and their ability to comfortably speak out about their challenges instead of being expected to have everything under control is continuing to have a huge impact on youth looking for role models and having the courage to get help and speak out about their challenges, problems and emotions.”
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Nearly one half of the people who feel like they suffer from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety never go see a doctor. In honour of #bellletstalk day, for every like this post gets till midnight tomorrow, I will donate $0.25 to this important cause. Everyday I am proud to work with @mcfaddensmovement to help end the stigma surrounding mental health. My teammates @liamhawel_ and @ratcliffe19 will be doing the same thing! #MM27
The Devils prospect understands that social media is a powerful tool and posts can reach thousands—if not millions—of people. Using these sites as an athlete can garner even more attention, and Schnarr would like to use his position to do whatever he can to help McFadden’s Movement.
“I’m using a voice that hockey has given me,” Schnarr said. “I’m a lucky kid who gets to play the game I love every day and I have followers because of that, and if I can use that to influence the world and spread the movement, that’s awesome.”
Schnarr considers his position as an ambassador to be extremely rewarding because his involvement can have a direct impact on anyone that works with the organization.
“[Mental health] is something that affects us all, whether it’s personally or with others,” Schnarr said. “I think it’s such a present topic in today’s society that it means a lot if I can help someone out.”
One of the most important things the Waterloo, ON native believes in is a support system, whether it be family, friends or anyone that can be trusted. When he speaks to people about the organization and the negativity surrounding mental health, Schnarr says he tells people his story and how important it is for him to have someone to lean on.
“It’s all about reaching out and having someone to talk to,” Scharr said. “If you sit in the dark, it can remain dark and get darker, so a big thing for me was being able to talk to someone and talk to a role model, even just to have them listen and help get that weight off your shoulders.
Some of the events the 6’3, 180 pound forward has been able to take part in are previous road hockey tournaments that help spread awareness about the goal of McFadden’s Movement. This summer, Schnarr with join the non-profit in its inaugural Celebrity Charity Golf Classic, which will be held July 27 in Guelph, ON. Participants in the golf tournament will be given the chance to play with past and present Guelph Storm players.
Schnarr said that in the future, he wants to keep up the conversation surrounding mental health because it affects so many people.
“Once you get that conversation started, I think it goes a long way and you feel a weight lifted off your chest and I think you can feel better from it.”
The Binghamton Devils will help spread the importance of mental health awareness by hosting DIFD night on February 28, 2020, in partnership with the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier. A tradition in Binghamton history, the Devils encourage all fans to wear purple to the game against the Hartford Wolf Pack in remembrance and reassurance that speaking up can save a life.