Calgary ball players team up to fight stigma around mental health issues

The recent deaths of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade have many talking about the issue of suicide.

And that discussion is a welcome one for a Calgary man raising money for suicide prevention in memory of his sister.

Cody Liepert wants to remember his sister, Kylee Liepert-Marshall, by doing what she loved — playing a summer game of baseball.

“My sister was one of my main cores of people to talk to, and I don’t have her anymore,” he said.

Liepert-Marshall took her own life in February.

The daughter of former MLA and current Calgary MP Ron Liepert, she was known for celebrating her birthday each year by organizing a ball game with family and friends.

And her brother helped keep that tradition going with a small tournament in her honour on Saturday.

More than a dozen friends and family members took part, including Jessie Feniuk, raising money for the Calgary Distress Centre.

Jessie Feniuk took part in the tournament to raise awareness around mental health issues and raise funds for the Calgary Distress Centre. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

“I was fortunate enough to meet her many times, she was an amazing person,” he said. “It’s a great cause, it’s touched me and my family as well as Cody and his family. It’s great to have a bunch of people out here … celebrating life and supporting a great cause.”

Feniuk said many suffering with depression do so in silence and he’s hoping events like this become an avenue for conversation.

“I think we all have our own struggles,” he said. “It just shows we never know what’s going on inside somebody. Some friends have went through the same struggles and it’s tough to know because no one wants to talk about it.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t make assumptions on how people are feeling and unless people are willing to talk about it, we’re never going to know. Most people suffer in silence.”

More than a dozen family and friends turned out for the event. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Liepert says part of his goal with the event — which he plans to hold annually — is to raise awareness around mental health and depression and support those suffering.

He doesn’t want others to go through what his family did.

“You can talk. You can reach out. Don’t be scared,” he said. “I think there’s a stigma of people in this state of mind that are scared to speak because they think they’re going to get belittled or ‘oh, it doesn’t matter,’ but that’s not true. You can talk, somebody will listen.”

Liepert says he also battles with depression and it’s something he works on every day.  

“I’ve been through it. I know the pain. It hurts but you have to get through it,” he said.

Volunteers at Calgary Distress Centre are available to offer support 24 hours a day by calling 403-266-4357 (HELP). Those with a hearing impairment can call 403-543-1967 and online chat is available from 3 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 10 p.m. on weekends. 

If you are thinking of suicide or know someone who is, help is available nationwide by calling toll-free 1-833-456-4566, texting 45645 or chatting online with Crisis Services Canada.

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