Seattle Seahawks defensive end Marcus Smith (97) leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mark Zaleski | AP
Six of the nation’s largest professional sports leagues team up this May to bring attention to Mental Health Awareness Month.
The NFL Players Association, National Basketball Players Association, National Hockey League Players Association, MLB Players Association, MLS Players Association, and Women’s National Basketball Players Association will work together to raise awareness of the cause and invest resources to improve the mental health of the professional athlete community.
This is the first time that sports organizations have come together to promote mental health.
“MentalHealthisMAYnstream will advance the national and global conversation about mental health and wellness and connect it to the experiences of athletes at every level of competition,” a joint statement from the organizations read.
The high stakes, busy lifestyles, and pressures of professional sports have caused many athletes to reveal their mental health struggles in recent years. With the National Alliance on Mental Illness reporting that 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences a mental health problem each year, athletes are not exempt.
Former Seattle Seahawks defensive end Marcus Smith II considered ending his career after feeling he did not live up to expectations of being a first-round pick.
He credited his head coach, Pete Carroll, and defensive line coach, Cliff Hurt, with helping him find the resources that ultimately saved his life.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have done what I was doing and probably wouldn’t be here today,” Smith said last year.
Today, Smith dedicates himself to helping other players avoid reaching that breaking point.
“Everyone is going through something we can’t see,” said Miami Heat forward Kevin Love, when he revealed his struggle with panic attacks in 2018 in The Players’ Tribune.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused even more isolation for many who were already struggling.
Dallas Cowboys star quarterback Dak Prescott I opened He expressed his depression in 2020 after the death of his brother and mother. Prescott said the isolation from the Covid-19 quarantine added to his anxiety.
“Obviously I got the help I needed and I was very open about it,” he said at the time. “I think that’s why I was lucky enough to get through it, because not all of us are like that.”
As athletes of all levels voiced their struggles, many leagues realized that mental health should be as much of a priority as physical health.
This new month-long campaign will aim to normalize mental health with players opening up about their own struggles, as well as sports federations offering advice and resources from health experts.
Sports leagues will also highlight inspiring stories from athletes and the various mental health efforts they lead.