Stigma-a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person
Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the NFL’s most valuable franchise, the Dallas Cowboys. For some, this is the most important position in professional sports. Not only because of his position, quarterback, but he is the quarterback of America’s Team. Prescott admitted this week about struggling with depression. He was grieving the loss of his brother.
In an interview In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Prescott said this.
“Honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I started experiencing depression,” “I didn’t know what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn’t been sleeping at all. But for one night, I sleep the best I’ve slept, missing 10-plus calls from Tad and giving my dad enough time to come in my bedroom and tell me what happened. So I woke up after the best night of sleep I’ve had in 2020 from the worst news — some of the worst news I’ll ever get.”
“When you have thoughts that you’ve never had, I think that’s more so than anything a chance to realize it and recognize it, to be vulnerable about it,” Prescott said. “Talked to my family, talked to the people around me simply as I did at the time. Some of them obviously had dealt with it before, was able to have those conversations and then reach out further just to more people.”
Because of who Prescott is, the number 1 Quarterback on the most popular franchise, it prompted discussions around the NFL. This included Skip Bayliss from Undisputed. For context, this is the full quote.
“I have deep compassion for clinical depression, but when it comes to the quarterback of an NFL team, you [Shannon Sharpe] know this better than I do, it’s the ultimate leadership position in sports, am I right about that?” Bayless said on UnDisputed “You are commanding an entire franchise… And they’re all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team.
“Because of all that, I don’t have sympathy for him going public with, ‘I got depressed,’ ‘I suffered depression early in COVID to the point that I couldn’t even go work out.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team …
“The sport that you play, it is dog eat dog. It is no compassion, no quarter given on the football field. If you reveal publicly any little weakness, it can affect your team’s ability to believe in you in the toughest spots and it can definitely encourage others on the other side to come after you.”
Many, including myself, have been quite critical of Bayliss’s comments. Siting admiration for Prescott’s vulnerability, which is what a leader does. Even this Tweet from Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.
Within the last 10 years, there has been a more of an openness to outwardly discuss mental health. Initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk have certainly helped. Dr. Bonnie Henry has talked about the importance of our mental health during our COVID19 crisis. This is leading to more people reaching out. According to this article in the Kelowna News, Aaryn Stecker from the Interior’s Health CMHA said they saw an increase of between 30 and 50 percent call volume during the COVID Crisis.
However, that doesn’t mean Bayliss’s opinion is as rare as we think. Especially around sports where they can be high expectations of competitiveness and winning. In her 2017 Ted Talk, Victoria Garrick said;
If you have ever had an injury, torn a ligament, sprained an ankle, I just want you to raise your hand.”
Awesome, that’s like, most of the room. That’s pretty common.
Now I want you to raise your hand if you have had depression and anxiety
“Small amount of hands raised.”
“You can put your hands down.”
Did you feel that tension or that awkwardness we created together? Did you maybe judge someone who raised their hand? Or were you afraid to raise your own hand because of what people might think?
1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health issue. Which is 25% of this room right now.
If we are to strictly follow this 1 in 4 number, think of it this way.
Of the 31 players the Vancouver Canucks took to the NHL Bubble, 8 would struggle with mental health.
Of the 53 men on the Seattle Seahawks roster,13 would struggle with mental health.
Of the 29 Vancouver Whitecaps, 7 would struggle with mental health.
Yet if stars like Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Russell Wilson, or Alphonso Davies admitted to a struggle, they would face the same stigma from many.
The public stigma is one thing to deal with. However, there is another gremlin that is important to realize. It is a private stigma. And for this, I’m going to be a personal experience
In 2018, I got my “dream” job. I was going to be a Producer at a radio station in Kamloops. For the record, the dream was the radio station, not Kamloops. But I got the job! I was on the road to success.
I was living in Vancouver at the time. I had to move to Kamloops and start in a couple of weeks. But, I had a positive attitude. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get to the “top”. So it would be no problem to find a place and work would be easy! Right? Well, it wasn’t.
I bounced around from Airbnb to Airbnb until I found a place. I was also working 12 hour days to line up guests. I was so overwhelmed and so unaware that I was overwhelmed. I was so deeply stressed with nowhere to turn.
I finally found a place to live in. However, a couple of days later, it was decided I was not a fit for the job. They let me go.
I was depressed. It was a huge risk, that I didn’t have a cushion to back me up. But as I look back on this, it didn’t start as a low, sad, depression. I was trying to be undaunted, determined, and “positive”. I wasn’t going to let my circumstances knock me down. But they were knocking me down.
A friend of mine who was a health care professional messaged me. And, this is what she said to me.
I’m sorry that this job didn’t work out for you.
I wanted to check in with you, because there are many people who care for you and are in your corner.
From my professional experience, this year you have experienced MANY, of the life experiences that rate your stress level in the ‘high’ level
Check out the article of the list of life events that are stressors
This being said not to drag it out to the open, but to shed light on it so, as to work with it and change it.
I want to show love and with honesty and grace, I think you might be at risk for depression (situational depression) or for having suicidal thoughts which can lead to action.
But, I couldn’t get help. I was strong. I had faith. I needed to be positive. I have to bounce back. Anything else would be a failure. That was my private stigma said. And that fight was worse than any public shame could give. Because that is what held me back.
But, She was right. As much I was trying to keep “up”, I had a very severe mental breakdown.It led me to move back to Vancouver and come back to school.
In any competitive situation, sports, dance, acting, and yes even radio, you are going to have your ups. But you are also going to lose. Things won’t work out your way. Circumstances will hit you hard. Perhaps harder than it “should”. There is the public stigma that speaks to you. But don’t forget about the private stigma that speaks loudly as well.
No matter who you are. Star player on the team. A reporter for the team. Somewhere in the middle. You are not alone. 1 in 5 will experience some sort of mental illness. It’s ok to get help. Publicly or privately.
As I close this, I want to share something that my counselor gave me.
This is a wheel of feelings. In any situation, you will not feel one thing about something. You will feel several. I have used this wheel to work through thongs I’m feeling and it helps. I hope it can help you.
It’s ok to feel things.
And it’s ok to seek help.
Here are some links.