February of 2021 will forever hold a dark place in Brandt McCartney’s (Texas Christian University, ’21) heart. His older brother’s life, the person who had served as a guide, a role model and a mentor for as long as McCartney could remember, was tragically cut short due to death by suicide.
A decorated Marine and a linebacker for the Naval Academy’s football team, Mathew Brewer seemed to be the picture-perfect young man. But what McCartney and his family found following Matt’s death was something far more eye-opening than any of them could have imagined. Although a CT scan was not possible, it is presumed that Matt suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is identified as the degeneration of the brain which is likely caused by repeated head traumas. In the case of McCartney’s brother, he had suffered at least seven or eight concussions over the course of playing football and through his service in the military.
As McCartney and his family slowly adjusted to what life now looked like without a crucial part of their unit, their story found its way to the hands of those in charge at the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF). For years, the CLF has served as the leaders in CTE research in both athletes and veterans. They wanted to share the McCartney family’s story to aid others experiencing the same sort of pain and uncertainty.
When McCartney’s Lambda Chi Brothers heard what was happening, they sprang at the opportunity to help McCartney in any way possible. It was decided that they would create a huge philanthropy effort to raise funds for the CLF.
In the meantime, McCartney dedicated himself to his efforts with the CLF and began regular conversations with the foundation’s president.
“Because he [CLF president] saw my passion and drive, not only did he support our philanthropic efforts at TCU, but he actually put me in charge of a group of about four people at their foundation,” said McCartney.
McCartney knew that this was his chance to use his brother’s story to make real change for others. Soon, McCartney developed and founded his own non-profit underneath the umbrella of the CLF. This new organization, called the 38 Challenge, focuses on a workout events and challenges that will help raise awareness and funding to support veterans and athletes suffering from CTE.
Now, my brother doesn’t have a voice, but I think his purpose for leaving was for me to be that voice for him.Brandt McCartney
McCartney is confident that through sharing his brother’s story, he can encourage others that the most important thing you can do is take care of your mental health.
“My brother was my best friend, my mentor, my biggest role model, really just the best brother you can ask for,” said McCartney. “I think there is this epidemic, if you will, of people not feeling manly if they ask for help.”
The bond of brotherhood has been crucial for McCartney and his mental health in the wake of his brother’s death. Through Lambda Chi, McCartney has seen the power of talking through problems and seeking help.
“The point of joining and brotherhood is to have people that support you no matter what, and we definitely have that bond here at TCU,” said McCartney.
McCartney is excited to see 38 Challenge take off and hopes to receive future support of high-profile athletes, veterans and others to raise awareness. His efforts will culminate on August 8, his brother’s birthday, at the main event.
Until then, McCartney aims to work harder each and every day to tell his brother’s story and spread awareness.
If you or someone you know needs support, please use the Lambda Chi Lifeline and get help now.