Ryan Donaldson was only 17 when he took his own life after dealing with a series of sports-related concussions. Ryan was a high level hockey player who was drafted by the Kelowna Rockets in the fifth round of the 2011 WHL bantum draft. According to the Langley Times, he was the top player taken in that draft playing a pair of games for the major junior team in the 2011/12 season as an under-age player.
Ryan suffered three major concussions which required hospitalization. Doug, Ryan’s father, said Ryan wasn’t the same kid after the brain injuries. He became very irritable and almost anything would set him off. Ryan’s sister Kirsten noticed he was staying up all night and sleeping during the day.
The family knew Ryan was suffering, but every time they approached him to see if he wanted help, Ryan declined
“When you talked to him, all off a sudden, there would be a glaze,” Doug said. “He would just shut right off and he wasn’t doing it on purpose. You would have to snap him out of it.”
The days leading to his suicide, Ryan kept to himself in his bedroom. The day he took his own life, he had texted a few people to see if they wanted to hang out. After he passed away, Ryan’s family found out he was living on Advil and Tylenol pills to alleviate headaches. He never discussed his headaches as he didn’t want to miss hockey.
“Looking back, I could see the signs and changes like moodiness, but just chalked it up to being teenaged,” Doug said. “Trust us, if I knew then what I know now about concussions, I would have shut him down (from playing).” The family wants to let others know that it is OK to talk about depression.
“Depression is a disease of the mind, a disease you can’t control, a disease you didn’t choose,” Kirsten says. “Remember you are not alone in your suffering and there are so many people who love you unconditionally.
Ryan’s family created an annual Ryan Donaldson Memorial Hockey jamboree-style tournament where individual players register and teams are drafted. Proceeds from the tournament are used to help families in need of post-concussion treatment and to provide baseline testing for tournament players. “We want to change the protocol … make the baseline test mandatory, so that if a player does suffer a concussion, the choice is taken away from the player and the parent and it is a medical clearance instead of the kid saying they are OK,” Doug said.