November 7, 2017 12:38 pm
Updated: November 7, 2017 6:07 pm

Huddle Up for Suicide Prevention initiative kicks off in Calgary

WATCH: It's an uncomfortable subject to share both publicly and privately, but a Calgary man is determined to shed the spotlight on suicide after it impacted him and his family. Jill Croteau reports.

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A Calgary man determined to shed the stigma of mental illness has created a charity event. Inspired by the memory of his brother-in-law and his adoration for the Calgary Stampeders, Clym Atkin is putting on a tailgate party.

“I look at a football team as a support network; the team supports one another,” Atkin said. “And I see a tailgate party as a good platform for people to come together, celebrate life and support one another.”

His brother-in-law Larry Hatfield took his own life nearly two years ago. Atkin now knows the value of having open and honest conversations about loved ones suffering in silence.

READ MORE: 7 common suicide myths

Larry Hatfield

Jill Croteau

“The hard thing about Larry is that I knew he had difficulty with anxiety, but I wasn’t aware of the extent,” Atkin said. “I remember the day it happened: my baby brother called and said, ‘Larry did it.’ I was like, ‘What did he do?’ … He killed himself.”

His unexpected death left behind Atkin’s sister Coralie Hatfield to raise three children alone.

READ MORE: Life is Worth Living – sisters reducing the stigma surrounding suicide

Clym Atkin with sister Coralie Hatfield

Jill Croteau

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“The reality is just now setting in he’s gone, but the pieces of my family aren’t going to fall back together,” Hatfield said.

“There’s a new normal I don’t like.”

But brother and sister are finding a new purpose.

Atkins’ tailgate party will be held at the Calgary Stampeders Western Final on Nov. 19.  He’s calling the event Huddle Up for Suicide Prevention and proceeds from the tickets go towards the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

READ MORE: Why more Canadian millennials than ever are at ‘high risk’ of mental health issues

Joy Pavelich with CMHA said such events are reminders about suicide awareness.

“For us, it’s impossible to quantify how powerful this is, to have someone do something so heartfelt with their individual story,” Pavelich said. “High-profile events create a space for people to feel comfortable to share and [grants them] permission to reach out.”

Atkin is hopeful this year’s tailgate party will beat last year’s fundraising tally of $4,000. This year, he’d like to top that with a goal of $10,000.

“Mental illness: people look at it as a choice. It’s not.” Atkin said. “It’s something you’re burdened with that a lot of people live with.”

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