A new basketball tournament in Halifax is honouring an Acadia Axemen student who died earlier this year.

Alex McLaughlin, 23, came from a family that loved basketball. He earned a spot at guard on the Axemen team in 2009.

His brother Mark says the team improved, and McLaughlin spent more time on the bench.

"At one point, he wasn't dressing for the games and he felt that in the year before he was a big contributor and I think he just generally wasn't happy anymore,” he said. 

'Depression is a common thing. It happens to lots and lots of people.' - Mark McLaughlin

But McLaughlin says his family will never really know why Alex took his own life earlier this year, only days before he was supposed to celebrate his graduation.

The pressures of the sport may have taken a toll, they say, and suggest changes that could help vulnerable students.

Schools focus on training, nutrition and winning, "but never anything about how to take care of your mind: how to stay mentally healthy,” Mark McLaughlin said. “Depression is a common thing. It happens to lots and lots of people."

When the game ends

Mike Price of the group Communities Addressing Suicide Together knows dealing with such thoughts can be hard.

"If you think of the competitive sport environment, if you're benched, right away you're feeling alone and you're feeling like a burden to the team,” he said.

McLaughlin says besides feeling like a burden, many athletes aren't prepared for the life change that comes when they realize the game is over.

Alex McLaughlin died earlier this year.

Alex McLaughlin died earlier this year.

"They may want to think that they're going to be an athlete for the rest of their career, but the reality of competitive sports is that as you move up, it gets harder and harder to succeed," he said.

"Through doing this tournament and talking about it openly and not being ashamed, we'll be able to affect some people hopefully."

Alex’s friends, family and teammates will play in the Alex McLaughlin Memorial Basketball Tournament at the University of King’s College.

The tournament begins Aug. 15. It’s to raise awareness about mental health in sports, and also to remember a young man who died just four months ago.