The Pro Football Hall of Fame has created an avenue to help current and former players and their families with mental and behavioral health issues.
Called Hall of Fame Behavioral Health, the program's mission will be "to make mental health and the treatment of issues surrounding athletes and those who care for them destigmatized, accessible and widespread," the Canton, Ohio-based Hall of Fame said in a news release issued Thursday.
Ambassadors to the program include Hall of Fame members Ronnie Lott, Brian Dawkins, Steve Atwater, Tim Brown and Andre Reed, along with current players Adrian Peterson and Calais Campbell.
"We have to end the stigma surrounding mental health, and that includes athletes," Dawkins said. "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 program can be accessed through a call center and a crisis line that will pair the athletes with accredited treatment and counseling services across the country. Issues they can address will 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 Behavioral Health, our mission is to make mental and behavioral 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 Behavioral Health, said taking the first step to getting help is most important.
"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."
--Field Level Media