NFLPA Strives to Raise Awareness for Mental Health


Justine Kelley

Every October, the topic of mental health is recognized worldwide. The month is observed with the intent to expel myths, educate the public and show support for the many people affected by mental health. For instance, common mental disorders that many people are living with are schizophrenia, depression, intellectual disabilities and disorders due to drug abuse.

While many mental health disorders can be successfully treated, the stigmatization of such disorders limits the willingness to access such treatment. Mental health professionals work to normalize the topic through health promotions such as World Mental Health Day, which was recognized on October 10th.

Statistics provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that more than 300 million people suffer from depression and more than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Noting that many people live with both disorders, the WHO also estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy one trillion dollars each year in lost productivity. This alarming statistic is a motivator for this year’s World Mental Health Month focus of mental health in the workplace.

There are number of ways that stakeholders are promoting the importance of mental health services and preventative care. For example, in recognition of America’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the NFLPA engaged in an organization-wide initiative involving weekly emails educating the staff about unhealthy behaviors and habits, and offered strategies to manage stress and change such behaviors.

Our Human Resources department also provided a seminar that explained how to access the mental health benefits through Cigna. Finally, employees were taught the importance of self-care and challenged to notice when it was time to take a break. This was encouraged through a free yoga class, a mindfulness seminar and seated massages.

Although programming for Mental Health Month is over, the NFLPA has continued to promote education about mental health. Last month, we joined Active Minds, one of our charitable partners that focuses on educating college students about mental health for their “Need You Here” social media campaign. In addition, and in continued recognition of September Suicide Prevention Month, the NFLPA joined the NFL for a Twitter chat with leading experts in suicide prevention.

This month, departments within the NFLPA held a mental health forum with the representatives from NFL Player Care Foundation, NFL Player Engagement and the Eisenhower Center to collaborate on mental health initiatives and strategies to best serve the NFLPA population.

Although World Mental Health Month is recognized globally in October, we understand that to truly destigmatize the issue and bring full awareness to the topic, mental health must be a part of the everyday conversation.