Toronto Maple Leaf’s star Mitch Marner says he is still coming to grips with a harrowing experience last May in which he was the victim of an armed carjacking in Etobicoke, just days after the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs.

“It was nuts. It was crazy. Especially, I think for my fiancée.”

On Thursday evening at a mini-put course in London, Ont., Marner hosted an event to raise money for mental health programs on behalf of The Marner Assist Foundation. He spoke about how his mental health and that of his fiancées were impacted by the traumatic event on May 17th.

“The next few months or so were hard. I mean, any time I was at a stop light, pitch dark in nighttime hours and a car pulls up, you kind of have a little bit of jitters and stuff,” he said.

“But we try to talk to people. And that was kind of the thing, we wanted to make sure we’re talking to the right people and get out what was in our minds and make sure that we’re getting the right advice. And that is kind of the main thing.”

The money raised from Thursday’s event will go towards London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) First Episode Mood & Anxiety Program (FEMAP). The program is the first of its kind in Canada which boasts a unique model aimed at reversing the “first episodes” of mental illness for youth aged 16-25.

Marner turned 25 this year and next week the Leafs will start training camp with the puck dropping on their regular season in less than a month. The team is notorious for having intense media coverage and passionate fans, some of who can take it over the line and harass the players in person and online with negative and abusive comments. Marner says he and his teammates, as well as the team, make sure to make their mental health a priority.

“The good thing about our team is that we are really close and are really personal to each other,” he said. “We try and talk as much as we can. We’re kind of those people that are getting that situation all year round.”

“I think UFC fighter Patty Pimblett said it best about how there’s a stigma around mental health that men, especially younger men, can’t talk to people. And that’s a thing that we’re trying to get rid of. We are trying to make sure people know that they have a voice and if you need to be heard, you are never alone in any fight you fight with. So that’s kind of our mindset.”

Marner launched his foundation five years ago with the goal to help generate sustainable change for children and youth. In the last year alone the MAF has provided multiple meals to families facing food insecurity, provided opportunities in sport for those who may not be able to afford ice time, provided warm meals during the holidays, and also helped ensure that any child who may not have a present under the tree at Christmas, would have one.

“I’ve been very fortunate, lucky enough to meet some great people that have helped create all of this for the past five years. We’re always looking to try to help as best we can around Toronto and everything around that area outside.”