Following the death of his brother in 2012, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard will take on a lead role in the team’s mental health project, Kicking The Stigma, which is set to be launched in May.
He opened up about how the fact that their relationship was a bit strained at the time of his death, had greatly affected his mental health.
Leonard and his brother had a slight argument during a fight at a club and explained to Judy Battista in an interview with NFL.com: “That’s what had been eating me alive. I stopped eating. I lost so much weight. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t the full energetic guy I would always be. I would have anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep. There’s no way I’m 19, 20 years old feeling this way, no way I should be getting EKGs (electrocardiograms) every month. No way I should be seeing a heart specialist. That’s when it really hit me that I need help. If I don’t find help, there is only one other way this could possibly go.”
The 25-year old admitted that there are still some moments where he thinks about his brother but learnt how to handle his emotions and now seeks to help people who find themselves in similar situations.
He told Battista: “It’s OK not to be OK. I knew I need help, and for a long time, I didn’t reach out. Once I did reach out, I knew that’s what made it better for me. A lot of people have a stigma, especially as men, that you can’t show weakness. I’m letting the world know, as a professional football player, a linebacker, one of the most aggressive positions on the field, there’s still no weakness because you’re having mental health issues.
“Me breaking down, showing my emotions, that’s helping me out rather than keeping my emotions inside. That’s better than keeping it inside.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay will also be playing a key role in the Kicking The Stigma initiative saying: “The awareness is so critical. We’ve got to reach that person who is sitting in their basement, and the commercial comes on, and maybe they think, ‘I’ll give it one last whirl.’"
Previously, together with Atlanta Falcons’ Hayden Hurst, Las Vegas Raiders’ Solomon Thomas and Darren Waller, Leonard took part in a roundtable hosted by NBC’s Carson Daly, regarding “struggles and breakthroughs and the importance of reaching out for help.”
Author: Catherine Micallef