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New Roughrider Shea Emry shares his battle with depression

01/28/2015 05:30 EST | Updated 03/30/2015 05:59 EDT
Shea Emry is known for his aggressive and physical play on the football field. But the newest member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is encouraging young men to embrace their vulnerable sides.

In a compelling interview with The Morning Edition's Sheila Coles, Emry discusses his struggles with depression and why he's sharing his story as part of Bell's Let's Talk mental health campaign.

"I've really tried to gain confidence in my own story and own that story and experience and share it with everyone else so I can inspire them to do the same."

Emry's story begins in Richmond, B.C. He was bullied as a child which caused his self confidence and self-worth to, as Emry puts it to Coles, "go down into the dumps."

The struggles continued when Emry was a star at Eastern Washington University. Football seemed to be the only outlet to deal with his depression.

"It gave me an outlet. It gave me something to focus on and something to really put my time and energy into. I was very angry and I wanted to prove a lot of things to a lot of people. Football allowed me to do that," he said.

Concussion sent Emry into a difficult mental state

Emry was drafted in 2008 by the Montreal Alouettes and quickly became an impact player. He won back to back Grey Cup titles in 2009 and 2010.

But in 2011, a concussion forced Emry to miss three months of the season. He spent his recovery in a dark, quiet room away from his teammates. The slow recovery brought back his depression in a severe way.

Coles asked Emry if he ever contemplated harming himself.

"I never got to that point but I did think about it numerous times," Emry replied.

When those thoughts would enter Emry's mind, he would think about his passion to start a family and then time he would want to spend with them. Emry is now engaged and has a four and a half month old son.

His son now serves as motivation for The Wellman Project; an organization Emry created to help men break typical male stereotypes.

"I want my son to feel free to cry and love and embrace and just live an enriched life. That doesn't mean he has to cry his eyes out everyday, but it's accepted," he said.

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