As front man for the Royal Ottawa Hospital's campaign to remove the stigma from mental illness, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was guest speaker at the third annual Mental Health Breakfast at the Civic Centre Wednesday morning
Alfredsson begins his 15th season with the Senators on Friday, and two years ago took on his role with the Royal Ottawa Hospital.
"I've been fortunate to be on one team my whole career, and I've been able to stay here, and obviously have a lot of connection here," Alfredsson said.
"It's a lot harder for some guys that bounce around and play in a lot of different cities. But I think overall here in Ottawa our hockey players has done a really good job in supporting different charities," he said.
One in five Canadians suffer from mental illness, and Alfredsson said speaking openly about the disease is part of the solution when treating it.
"Someone you know has a mental illness, and someone I know has a mental illness," he said.
In his case, he means his younger sister in Sweden, who he said struggles with an anxiety disorder, and that's partly why he has given his time and image to help the Royal Ottawa Hospital.
"It's not a sexy cause by any stretch of the imagination," said Denis Trottier, an Ottawa accountant who also attended the breakfast.
He said Alfredsson is a different type of professional athlete when it comes to community involvement.
"It's neat that he took a cause that has some hurdles versus maybe an easier route," he said.
Trottier said he has battled depression, and lost a year of work because of it.
Wednesday morning, he brought 16 people to hear Alfredsson and others share stories about mental illness.
"Almost 90 per cent of the people were actually either living through this themselves or had a friend or a neighbour or a colleague that were living through it, So it's a lot more prevalent than we think," Trottier said.
Alfredsson said he was impressed to see 600 people at Wednesday's breakfast, and he hopes organizers can improve on the $500,000 donated last year.