After hitting rock-bottom in an off-ice battle with depression, Nella Brodett nearly committed suicide last month.
“I was looking around my room and the lights were out,” says the women’s hockey captain. “(My) phone was off and the curtains were drawn. I was in bed. And thought about ways that I could do it. And I thought about my roommates, and they’re actually my teammates, opening up my room and finding me there.
“I ended up sitting upright. I turned on my phone. I actually missed the game so I ended up texting my therapist, like the athletic therapist, and asking if there was an update on the score.”
It was that moment of hopelessness that served as Brodett’s inspiration to raise awareness for mental illness through a charity dodgeball tournament to be held on Thursday.
“I told them I would assist them in a few ways,” said associate athletic director Stephanie White. “(By) connecting them with others in the university (and) helping them obtain donations to support the cause. I respect that it was a student-driven initiative.”
Ryerson Athletics made a five cent donation yesterday for every Tweet that used the #RamsTalk to Do it for Daron (DIFD), an organization that helps those with mental illnesses.
By Tuesday afternoon, the hashtag was trending in Canada.
The connection to DIFD was an easy one for Brodett. Rams teammate Cassie Sharp had played on the same team as Daron Richardson in 2010 in Ottawa.
That same year, Richardson, 14, committed suicide, and her parents created the DIFD project to encourage vulnerable youth to seek help. Brodett said the reaction from around campus in the lead-up to the event has been better than she thought. The only problem is that not everyone can play in the tournament.
“I’ve actually received a lot of interest from outside of athletics to join the dodgeball tournament and some student groups as well have asked to put in a team,” she said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t really expecting that and we only had one day with a five-hour time slot for the gym. So I think next year we’re going to hope to open it up to all of campus.”
Sharp approached Brodett in November 2013 about a charity hockey game. There wasn’t enough time or games remaining to plan the event, so they turned to the idea of a dodgeball event.
“I approached Nella at first because it’s something that means a lot to me,” said Sharp. “And in Ottawa, it was always a part of my teams to give money to this charity so I wanted to make sure I brought it to Toronto and kept it going.”
Sharp said that when she played in Ottawa, her team used to wear stickers on their helmets and purple hearts on their jerseys to commemorate Richardson.
Brodett’s experience with depression has been long and painful. It was initially triggered by the deaths of two of her friends last year. She said dealing with it is still a work-in-progress.
“It’s probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to go through,” she said. “It came to a point where the stress was just way too much and I couldn’t perform as a leader as efficiently as I should be.”
That’s one of the reasons she created this charity tournament, as she hopes to spread the message that mental illness should be talked about.
“We just want to spread awareness and show that there is help and resources,” said Brodett.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 26, 2014.