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NFL commissioner supports mental health counseling for retired players

Heather Rudow June 11, 2012

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

In the wake of the suicide of a retired football player, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview with Sports Illustrated that more needs to be done for football players’ mental health post-career, suggesting that players should receive a mental health evaluation as they exit the NFL.

“Our focus has been on the total health of our players,” Goodell said to Sports Illustrated. “It’s not just their physical health, like cardiovascular screening and joint replacements, it’s expanding of the mental health resources. How do we help identify somebody that may need help, get that help to them and what are the resources that he has? … There’s still that stigma that mental health is a weakness. It’s not. Depression, anxiety, these are very common and can be dealt with in a variety of different fashions. Some with medicine, some with counseling, some with other forms of assistance. When they’re not dealt with, they have a tendency to spiral and to become much more complicated.”

Goodell said there should be “at least an evaluation” of players’ mental health as part of their exit physical, which is something the NFL is currently evaluating.

The subject of retired football players’ mental health comes up in light of the suicide of Junior Seau, who shot himself in the chest May 2.

“The most disturbing thing is the tragedy itself,” says Goodell of Seau. “That a young man that was so successful and had so much good to learn and had so much promise made the decision to end his life. All we want to do is make sure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent another tragedy, to have the resources available to our players and to recognize in talking with the professionals, to the VA, to the National Institute of Health.”

The NFL has recently started a peer-to-peer program called the Ambassador Program, reports Sports Illustrated, which pairs former players with current ones so they can discuss retirement and keep in touch once players retire.

Read the rest of the interview

Source: Sports Illustrated

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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