Jim Sullivan Curling Classic balances competition with focus on mental health

Canada Health

A Saint John curling event benefiting mental health services is growing in popularity.

The Jim Sullivan Curling Classic is named after the former Canadian and World Junior champion and Brier finalist who committed suicide in 2011. Part of Sullivan’s legacy is encouraging others who suffer in silence to speak out.

Jeremy Mallais is a competitive curler who lives in Moncton. He also suffers from mental illness.

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“I’ve been personally going through a bit of a battle with post partum depression which I didn’t know hit men,” Mallais said, who is part of the international field at the Classic. While competitive, the tournament is equally focused on the issue of mental health.

Mallais chairs the tournament with his wife Sarah and says his struggles began after the birth of his now 18-month-old son. “Right after day one, nothing felt right. It was just a blank dark space,” Mallais explained. “I didn’t know what it was going to feel like.”

He credits this tournament with giving him the ability to talk about it.

“Having the conversation is not as bad as I thought,” Mallais said. “People aren’t judging me for it. People want to help, people want to support”.

Sullivan’s parents, who are a big part of the event, hope the tournament will helps other like their son.

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“There’s more than him that are aching or are aching with regard to mental health issues and I hope they can solve them,” said Dave Sullivan, Jim’s father. “We are losing too many good people that could contribute a lot to the world”.

For those who work in the field, the issue needs to be swept out from under the rug. “Mental illness is no different physical illness, and over time we are working towards increasing the awareness and reducing that stigma,” said Dawn O’Dell of the New Brunswick Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

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The international field this year includes teams from the U.S. and China, as well as Eastern Canada.

Dave Sullivan thinks his son would be pleased to see how the event has progressed. “He was a great sportsman, I think, anyway,” said Sullivan. “He was my son, so I have a little feeling for him.”

Donations will go to the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

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