With so many people affected by mental illness, speakers at the Royal Ottawa’s annual breakfast said it’s unfortunate stigma still remains.

The mental health care centre held its fifth annual Leaders for Mental Health breakfast Wednesday, aiming to share stories and raise money for research.

Speakers ranged from Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and CTV Ottawa’s Graham Richardson to Julie Ducharme, who experienced first-hand the effects post-traumatic stress disorder was having on her family.

“You just want to say ‘Just snap out of it and get over it,’ but they cannot,” she said of her experience after her husband returned from Rwanda in 1995.

“Rarely does suicide happen in a doctor’s office; it happens at home, it happens at work, it happens on the front lines of where we live.”

“One in five will be affected directly by a mental illness,” said Andree Steel. “The other four are indirectly affected because it’s their mother, father, brothers, sisters, colleagues and friends.”

People at the breakfast said more people are starting to talk about mental health, but there’s a long way to go to reduce the stigma and the $51 billion it costs the Canadian economy every year.

“It feels like it was needed, that someone needed to step out and make it feel that it’s not something to be ashamed of,” said Alfredsson, whose sister is living with Generalized anxiety disorder.

“I went from being a professional athlete representing my country to being homeless,” said Shelly McKay, who is living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Through all the harrowing tales, there were also stories of hope and people such as Ducharme’s husband who found help.

“There’s hope, there’s recovery,” she said. “Although the symptoms don’t go away, the person will be living with his mental illness by feeling like they’re connected to somebody and someone cares.”

With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Catherine Lathem