LONDON, Ontario -- Sixteen months after being carjacked, newlyweds Mitchell Marner and wife Stephanie haven’t forgotten. They probably never will.

“The important thing,” the Toronto Maple Leafs forward said, “is to try to turn a negative like that into a positive."

How do they do that when it comes to arguably the most traumatic incident in their collective lives?

Marner believes the answer is by continuing to promote and enlighten the public about mental health and the need for open discussion about it.

To that end, the 26-year-old, through his Marner Assist Foundation, hosted the second annual Sink The Stigma miniature golf event Thursday in London, where he played for the Knights of the Ontario Hockey League from 2013-2016.

The initiative raised more than $50,000 for the First Episode Mood & Anxiety Program (FEMAP), doubling the amount brought in during the inaugural event a year ago. FEMAP is a pioneering program in Canada, aiming to reverse the "first episodes" of mental illness among young individuals aged 16-25.

“When you go through adversity, it’s important that people talk about it, as difficult as it might be, instead of burying it inside,” he said. “We’re trying to promote that.

“We’re trying to let young people, all people, know that it’s good to reach out and communicate when you’re struggling.”


Marner knows firsthand how important opening up can be.

On May 16, 2022, just two days after the Maple Leafs were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round, he and then-fiancée Stephanie were held up by three suspects, two armed with guns and another with a knife, in Etobicoke, Ontario, a western suburb of Toronto. They then took off in Marner's vehicle.

“It changes your perspective on life, and the importance of talking about it,” he said. “There were a lot of things going through your head at the time. You’re dealing with being eliminated and having so many negative thoughts go through your head and then, in a split second, suddenly your car is being stolen. You’ve got a gun pointed at you, someone has their hands on your wife and is holding a knife to you.

“It’s a bit crazy to think of still now to this day and certainly makes you more aware of the scenarios around you. But it’s very important to talk about and just let people know how you’re dealing with that situation and what it did to you.

“It’s a situation you never want anyone to be in or feel they are in, so that definitely was another thing that probably helped with all the mental health stuff.”

Marner said he and Stephanie, who were married July 29, still discuss the incident, but it’s not a topic they bring up regularly.

“There’s obviously new people around who heard the story and want to talk about the story,” he said. “I’m not haunted by talking about it or afraid to talk about it.”

Neither should teens and young adults when it comes to their own personal demons, Marner said.

“I’ve been talking mental health for a long time to people and just try to express it,” he said. “It’s definitely a major thing and going through a lot of 16- to 26-year-old's heads.

“Those years are really hard on you. There’s a lot of growing, a lot of learning, in that time. So, we’re trying to definitely bring a lot of awareness to it.”