A well-known hockey family on Vancouver Island came to Nanaimo last night for its first-ever With Help Comes Hope fundraiser for mental health.
Former Vancouver Canucks player Geoff Courtnall was in town at the Nanaimo Golf Club on Thursday, Sept. 15, for a gala event raising money for the the Courtnall Society for Mental Health. The family has been raising money for mental health since 2003, but recently changed the name of its Courtnall Celebrity Classic Society to better reflect its mandate.
“Our goal is to raise as much money as we can and then find grassroots organizations that are doing all the hard work in finding the people that need it the most,” said Bruce Courtnall, Geoff’s youngest brother.
The family was personally impacted by mental health issues as the brothers’ father, Archie Courtnall, died by suicide in the late 1970s after a lengthy spell of depression.
“Obviously talking about my dad, it upsets you a little bit, but I think it’s a great message for everybody to hear so I always feel good after I can share that with as many people [as I can],” Geoff said. “It’s important that we do this and somebody in the room might hear something that they can help with, with a family member or somebody else they know.”
Bruce said conversations about mental health have changed a lot in the 19 years since the family first began fund-raising for the cause.
“The stigma’s still there, but more and more people are willing to talk, whereas before, nobody would talk,” he said. “It’s come a long way [but] it still has a long way to go.”
Geoff said he thinks there’s much greater general awareness of mental-health issues, in hockey or anywhere else.
“Not only are players opening up about their struggles, [but also] their family members or others,” he said.
Bruce said the brothers know that many other people have similar stories about mental health issues in their own families, and it’s important that they know they can talk about it, and that they can ask for help.
“There’s so much need out there…” he said. “More people realize that their friends and family are affected by mental health. We’ve got to get out there and help them in the right way we can to get the help they need.”
Thursday’s charity event included a four-course dinner, video messages, an auction and a performance by country musician Aaron Pritchett.
To learn more information about the society or to make a donation, visit www.courtnallsociety.org.