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Friday, December 3, 2021

Inspired by players, NFL works to embrace mental health

Roughly 70 percent of NFL players are black, and according to a 2019 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, non-Hispanic black adults are half as likely to receive treatment as their white peers. In addition, the American Psychiatric Association apologized this year for racial disparities in care and research.

“I think especially in black communities, even in my family, people think it’s a sign of weakness when you talk to someone,” Campbell said. “It’s something we’re still trying to break. It starts with educating and empowering our youth, so it’s a social norm. I’ve seen other players like Post do similar things. Have seen – it should be a collective process for all of us.”

Like Thomas, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott learned the value of talking to a mental health professional while in college. During the 2014 Mississippi State spring semester, a year after her mother, Peggy, died of cancer, the university recommended that Prescott see a psychologist.

Initially, he saw it as punishment by saying to the therapist: “I don’t have a problem.” Still, his mother was always the first person he wanted to talk to. As Prescott sat in the psychologist’s office, he felt it helped to open up.

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Prior to the 2016 NFL draft, Prescott was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (he was later acquitted in the case). The Cowboys selected him in the fourth round, and in September the NFL mandated that he see a psychologist unaffiliated with the league once a week as part of the league’s drug and alcohol program.

“I had no idea what it was doing to me,” said Prescott, who helped lead Dallas to a 13-3 record in his rookie season. “But looking back, I was able to do what I did.”

Prescott said that he is in regular contact with the Cowboys’ mental health and wellness advisor, Yolanda Bruce Brooks, as well as the team’s mental conditioning coach Chad Bohling, and he realized that talking to a therapist on both good and bad days helped. It helped him to be consistent on and off the field.

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