Montreal Alouettes​ star Shea Emry says one of the toughest battles he ever fought was off the field when he grappled with depression.   

Emry was one of more than 1,000 people gathered in Montreal on Sunday, to publicly demonstrate against the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

“If I can get up there, and share my story, and affect one person's life, I'm inspired and it makes me want to come back and do more,” says Emry.

Emry says he hopes his participation in the 5th annual Mental Health Walk will help people trying to cope with mental health problems.

Mimi Israel, Chief of Psychiatry at Montreal's Douglas Institute, says one of the goals of the Mental Health Walk is to get people to understand that people should not be ashamed to suffer from mental illness.

Israel says the organizers' other goal is to raise funds for research and treatment, which will help support four local programs.

However, she says it's easier to raise money for cancer than mental health because many people don't want to be associated with it.

Israel says celebrities, like Emry, send a powerful message to the public. 

Social workers against stigma

McGill Social Work Student Association members were among the more than 1000 demonstrators in Montreal's 5th annual Mental Health Walk. (Marie-Claude Cabana)

“A guy that you look at and you say ‘he's just like me’ or even “I look up to him, I want to be like him’ and then you realize he has perhaps experienced the same challenges as you have," says Israel.