Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson says he is showing his love for his sister in Sweden by becoming the face of a new campaign to end the stigma associated with mental illness.
Alfredsson spoke about his younger sister Cecelia, who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, after helping the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health kick off the "You know who I am" campaign Wednesday.
"I just see her struggles and it's hard for me as a brother," he told CBC News, adding that it's hard to show his support when she lives in Sweden and he doesn't. "I hope by doing this as well, I can really give her a boost and show her that I care."
Cecelia, who has a boyfriend and is pregnant with her second child, has struggled with her symptoms for eight years.
"She would go through not sleeping at all, not eating … crying a lot," he said. Sometimes, she was so down that she wouldn't feel like talking to anyone at all, and she feared she would become suicidal, he added.
Alfredsson said at first, he was not that supportive.
"I didn't talk about it," he said, adding that people's fear of mental illness and their reluctance to talk about it are some of the biggest obstacles for people who suffer from it.
He hopes the campaign will get people talking about mental illness by directing them to a website where people can obtain information about mental health, read the blog that he will post there, and post their own stories.
"The feedback I've got is we need people to step forward, we need people to talk about it and be role models."
As for Cecelia, Alfredsson said she has been helped a lot by the support of her family, as well as medication and other medical treatment.
The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health is a charitable foundation that supports the Royal Ottawa Hospital, which treats people with mental illness.