NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently stated that he wanted to make mental health evaluations mandatory for recently retired players:
“That’s something that’s being discussed as a part of your exit physical,” Goodell said. “Part of that is mental health evaluation to see what it can be. I’ve heard that from players myself. And we are evaluating it.”
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall is an advocate for mental health therapy for not only NFL players, but the public as well:
When the game is taken away from us or when we stop playing, the shock of not hearing the praise or receiving the big bucks often turns out to be devastating. The blueprint I am creating for myself will help not only other athletes, it will help suffering people all over.
We must break the cycle, and that starts with prayer and by seeking help. By understanding the pain,
we can replace the hurt with love.
What obstacles stand in the way of former players getting the help they may need? According to NFL Vice President of Player Engagement Troy Vincent, it may be the players themselves.
“We have our player assistance and counsel services is not just available to players, but his family as well,” Vincent said on 550 WGR in Buffalo, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. “Each player has the option of four free clinician services of their choice and where they want it to. It doesn’t get used often. Very seldom does a player or family member reach out to just talk about hey I am not feeling well. Again, it’s a service that’s very underutilized.”
Vincent mentioned that there are little things that deter former players from seeking treatment, such as not being accustomed to the hassles involved: When you’re an active NFL player and you need any type of health care, mental or physical, you have a team medical staff ready to treat you on your schedule. When you’re retired, you have to sit in a waiting room and fill out paperwork. But the larger issue is that football players have been taught not to express feelings of weakness or sadness.
Brandon Marshall wrote that “In sports, those who show they are hurt or have mental weakness or pain are told: ‘‘You’re not tough. You’re not a man. That’s not how the players before you did it.’’ It seems as if the “macho man culture” the NFL breeds stands in the way of former players seeking the counseling that may do them some good. Let’s hope and pray that the tragic suicides of former players serves as a wake up call to those who may need more help than they may realize.
ProFootballTalk: NFL concerned that players don’t accept counseling in retirement ‡ W&L: Brandon Marshall – Seau’s Death A Learning Opportunity ‡ W&L: Mandatory Mental Health Evaluations for Retirees?