While more celebrities and prominent figures are opening up and being well received as mental health speakers, some athletes say it is still difficult to share more about their hardships. On a recent episode of “Mind Matters TODAY,” TODAY’s Carson Daly sat down with four NFL players who are working to end the stigma around mental health in sports.
"I still think the stigma's pretty strong," said Solomon Thomas of the Las Vegas Raiders, after opening up about seeking counseling following his sister’s passing. "That's the one reason I didn't come out and start speaking right away about my depression, about my journey, and about my sister's journey, as well. I was afraid of, like, what fans would think, if teammates would think I'm soft," he continued.
DJ Chark of the Jacksonville Jaguars stated he first struggled with anxiety as a student at Louisiana State University when he would often feel nervous whether it was about football or not. When he first entered the NFL, however, he was concerned about how this challenge would be perceived by those around him.
"If you come out and you speak on it, first thing is 'He's weak,' or, you know, 'He's not a leader.' And it's like 'Oh, well, we don't want that on the team,'" Chark said.
The Minnesota Vikings’ Adam Thielen uses his organization, the Thielen Foundation, to raise awareness about young people struggling with mental health issues. Thielen has become one of several popular mental health speakers in sports and believes athletes must be able to have an open and honest conversation with their teammates.
"I can't explain how important it is to just say 'Hey, I have some things going on and I need your help,’” said Thielen.
This openness, according to Chark, has helped him to develop relationships with other athletes and has helped him open up and have important discussions.
There are now a few additional services available for athletes, including a behavioral health program offered by the Hall of Fame for athletes and their families, and the NFL is launching a video series promoting resources for both athletes and fans. The NFL introduced a mental health mandate some years ago, requiring each team to have at least one therapist or psychologist on staff.
If you are looking for more information on mental health speakers like Adam Thielen, DJ Chark and Solomon Thomas, Athlete Speakers is the go-to authority in the industry. We have been in business for over 20 years and book hundreds of top athlete talent for our clients annually. Fill out our Online Booking Request Form or call 1-800-916-6008 today to start the process!