“I’m not ashamed to say I’m mentally ill, but that doesn’t mean mentally weak.”
As part of his acceptance speech for his Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy win, an award given to a player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game, Lehner illustrated why exactly he won the award with a speech that saw him advocate for end of the shame that’s been associated with mental illness.
“I took that first step, got help and that was life changing to me,” Lehner said. “It’s something that we’ve gotta keep pushing for and we’ve gotta end the stigma.”
Before the 2018-19 season began, Lehner penned a letter in The Athletic where he opened up about his harrowing battle with bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug and alcohol addiction before finally deciding to seek help.
“The drinking and pills I was taking were to bring me down and ‘even me out,'” a passage from the letter reads. “Nothing else worked to calm down my brain. … I could not stand being alone in my brain at night time.”
This letter was but one step Lehner took to, as he says, end the stigma. And his acceptance speech on Wednesday was only yet another.