Mental Health

Q & A: Sellars battles more than just his opponents on the pitch

SMU soccer player opens up about depression ahead of Bell Let's Talk

This story contains a correction

Huskies Stadium in Halifax is one of the places where Sellars, who says he once had “situational depression,” finds peace.    Mark Moffat

When Tyler Sellars steps on the soccer pitch, he has to deal with more than simply playing the game.

Sellars’s website details how he and his family dealt with hard times when the 2008 global financial crisis set in. They only bought the cheapest food and clothes, created detailed budgets and Sellars and his brother begged outside of stores for change to go toward their soccer expenses. This was hard for Sellars as the crisis dragged on.

Sellars is a business student at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) who plays midfield for the SMU Huskies soccer team. He has had some business ventures as well, including selling some of his old soccer equipment and reinvesting the money he made from selling sporting gear into men’s clothing manufacturers in Japan.

But, these ventures were not without their problems, as he has had disputes with both eBay and PayPal over fees. This took its toll on Sellars as well. On top of all this, he was in a relationship that ended that he was “crushed” by.

When he is not playing soccer or running his own businesses, he is an advocate against the stigma surrounding mental health.

He is one of a number of Atlantic University Sport (AUS) athletes who are talking about their mental health as we approach the seventh annual Bell Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

The event is partnering with U Sports, the current name of the organization formerly known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), for the second year. This means that student-athletes from across the AUS will help lead the conversation around mental health on campus and in the arena during three special men’s hockey games.

Sellars spoke to The Signal over the phone to explain why this cause is so close to his heart, even though he won’t be playing in one of these games.

The Signal: Have you personally had to deal with mental illness?

Tyler Sellars: Yes. I had depression. That’s the reason I have the agenda with Bell. I have had highs and lows. Initially, I didn’t know how to talk about it. I talked to my friends and family and they were going through depression as well. Over time and after talking it through with family and friends, I became a stronger and happier person.

How do you feel about the progress that has been made in mental health over the last several years?

Let’s be honest, the real reason for the increase in depression is the instant gratification you get from the Internet. It’s fake; they’re not real connections. The only way through is friendship and love. Real relationships, ones that require undivided attention, are important. It (the Internet) creates a network of slight depression. It can’t last forever (and) we have to do something about that.

How has sports helped you cope with your mental illness?

It is my escape. It is my freedom. I’m not thinking about anything else. It helps me get rid of that negative energy. When the off-season comes, I continue this by weightlifting and going for runs.

Are there any additional thoughts you would like to add?

The important message behind the name Bell’s Let’s Talk is the “let’s talk” part. You have to be open and honest with yourself and others. It is a liberating experience. It boosts your confidence to be open. If you are not confident, then talking about your mental health helps build your confidence.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Correction: Jan. 25, 2017: An earlier version of this story misstated that Sellars currently has depression, that he sold his old sporting gear to make money, and that his family begged for money for their household needs, rather than just to cover his soccer expenses. These errors have since been corrected.