The Pro Football Hall of Fame has created a programme which can be used to help current and former players and their families with mental and behavioural health issues.
Called Hall of Fame Behavioural Health, the programme's aim is "to make mental health and the treatment of issues surrounding athletes and those who care for them de-stigmatised, accessible and widespread," according to a statement.
Ambassadors of the programme include Hall of Fame members Ronnie Lott, Brian Dawkins, Steve Atwater, Tim Brown and Andre Reed, as well as current players Adrian Peterson and Calais Campbell.
"We have to end the stigma surrounding mental health, and that includes athletes," said Brian Dawkins. "It's ok to ask for help and to reach out if you are having issues. It's OK not to be OK. But it's not OK to stay that way -- because our silence is killing us and damaging our families."
The programme can be accessed via a call centre and a crisis line that will pair the athletes with accredited treatment and counselling services across the country. Issues that are able to be addressed include addiction, performance anxiety and post-career transition. It has partnered with a dozen health and wellness centers around the country that will provide services.
"The Pro Football Hall of Fame has always been about protecting the most important part of the game of football: the players," said David Baker, the Hall's president and CEO. "With Hall of Fame Behavioural Health, our mission is to make mental and behavioural health services that meet the Hall of Fame's standards of excellence easily accessible and available not only to Hall of Famers but to every player of this game, the people who support them and the kids dreaming about one day playing in the League."
Wes Cain, the president and CEO of Hall of Fame Behavioural Health, added:"Whether it's affordability, access or simply saying the words 'I need help' to a trusted friend, current and retired athletes have faced an uphill battle in seeking and receiving mental health services. Our goal is to let everyone know that if you are a first-ballot Hall of Famer or a practice squad player, we hear you and we are here to support you. No one should be left behind on their journey to live a healthy life."
Author: Jake Wilkin