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As a therapist, I’m always impressed and heart-warmed to see people open up about their personal connection to mental health. Recently, quarterback to the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott, and his brother Tad Prescott took this plunge into vulnerability, showing us all the true meaning of strength. Dak Prescott talked openly about his depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation related to the pandemic as well as the tragic loss of his brother, Jace Prescott, to suicide earlier this year. Dak is speaking out, in part, because he wants other people who are silently struggling to feel less alone. 

Although I have seen positive change over time, there is a continued stigma about mental health. Our society equates people with mental health as being “crazy” or “weak.” The fact is, struggling with mental health at one point in time or another is the norm, not the exception. According to the organization Mental Health First Aid, nearly half of all Americans will experience a mental illness during their lifetimes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), only about half of people in the United States with mental illness receive treatment. With the current factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic and related fallout, these rates are skyrocketing. Many people who do not typically struggle with maintaining mental health currently are due to the isolation, stress, and anxiety associated with the pandemic world. 

As we approach the season which holds increased suicide attempts and completions, I worry about what is in store for the fall and winter season upon us. Colder weather will make outdoor gatherings more difficult as we move into the next phase of trying to stay social and connected in a pandemic world. 

It is therefore that I feel so proud of Dak Prescott, if I am in any position at all where I am “allowed” to feel proud of him. I am, however, simply a fan of the game and a practicing therapist in faraway Denver. I feel such gratitude reading and re-reading his comments and watching and re-watching his interviews. It is so powerful for people in the world to see a strong black man, a public figure and athlete, speaking so publicly and vulnerably about how he has struggled. We live in an age where it is easy to believe everyone else is thriving and we are alone in our grief, depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. When we peruse social media pages or pass folks on the street, it can seem that everyone is doing fine and if we are struggling, that we must be the only one. By speaking out about how these things affect us, all of us, we work to help lower the stigma and increase access to getting help. Mental health does get better with treatment!

Resources:

  • See Dak Prescott’s interview with Graham Bensinger here
  • A wonderful non-profit Let’s Talk CO has great resources and other wonderful stories about people sharing about their pain and how they’ve overcome.  

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