Sports Former NHL goalie shares struggles with mental illness, addiction

16:56  14 april  2018
16:56  14 april  2018 Source:   cbc.ca

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Clint Malarchuk, seen playing goal for Buffalo in 1990, is sharing his story to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.© Rick Stewart/Getty Images Clint Malarchuk, seen playing goal for Buffalo in 1990, is sharing his story to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

Former NHL goaltender Clint Malarchuk has gone through both physical and mental trauma in his life and, after two brushes with death, he's sharing his story and advocating for better mental health support.

Malarchuk endured one of the most horrific injuries in NHL history in 1989 when he was playing goal for the Buffalo Sabres. The skate of an opposing player clipped his throat and severed his jugular vein.

"That was the beginning of a real spiral downward because of trauma, which now they call PTSD," he told Gloria Macarenko, guest host of CBC's The Early Edition . "It really set me off in a lot of bad ways."

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Steve Tuttle of the St. Louis Blues was in front of Malarchuk and fell, causing his skate accidentally cut the Buffalo Sabres goalie ’s carotid artery. Malarchuk is sitting in his barn on his ranch in Nevada, struggling with his depression and OCD. “ Mental illness isn’t a weakness. It’s an illness .”

After years of struggle , Clint Malarchuk says he's finally happy. But that wasn't always the case. For years, the former NHL goalie suffered from alcohol addiction , mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Malarchuk was back on the ice 10 days after his injury and continued to be professionally involved in hockey for many years after.

But he faced a long battle with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares, Malarchuk said.

"I self-medicated with alcohol to try and calm my anxiety or pick me up when I was depressed," he said. "Addiction and mental illness, it almost goes hand in hand for so many of us."

At his lowest, Malarchuk attempted suicide.

"Being a suicide survivor, I'm a big advocate for helping people on addiction," he said. "There is no way I would have pulled that trigger had I been sober."

a person on the snow: Malarchuk returned to the ice within days of the accident that nearly took his life.© Rick Stewart /Allsport Malarchuk returned to the ice within days of the accident that nearly took his life.

Impact of addiction

He's taking part in an event this weekend in Surrey about the impact of addiction on families.

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Former National Hockey League goalie Clint Malarchuk told a group of Ontario first responders on Friday that they don't have to go it Former hockey pro wants the stigma of mental illness to stop. He struggled with PTSD after an errant skate slashed his jugular vein during an NHL game in 1989.

Photo: Speakers’ Spotlight. Former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk was one tough hombre in his playing days. Growing up in Grand Prairie, AB, CA, Clint had struggles that he couldn’t identify. It was a cocktail of illnesses that would haunt him throughout the rest of his career and several years after.

"Addiction is so out there, we close our eyes to it a lot of times and it affects the whole family," he said. "They see it, they live it. How do you handle it?"

Malarchuk's own story begins in a family where his father battled alcohol addiction, he said.

Still haunted

Even long after the initial trauma, the effects linger and memories can be triggered, he said.

"It still haunts me," Malarchuk said.

Malarchuk said his mental health suffered a severe setback in 2008 when Florida Panthers player Richard Zednik suffered a similar injury to the one he had.

Tragedies like last week's crash between the Humboldt Broncos team bus and a semi-trailer can also have an impact.

"Anybody in Canada, or even North America, can really be thrown through a loop on that, but somebody like myself who has struggled with trauma, it affected me," he said.

Malarchuk is speaking at the free event in Surrey, called How Addiction Affects Families, on Saturday, April 14.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. by phone at 1-800-SUICIDE or online .

With files from The Early Edition .

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