Proclaiming May 2016 as National Mental Health Awareness Month, President Barrack Obama said, “During National Mental Health Awareness Month, we recognize those Americans who live with mental illness and substance use disorders, and we pledge solidarity with their families who need our support as well. Let us strive to ensure people living with mental health conditions know that they are not alone, that hope exists, and that the possibility of healing and thriving is real. Together, we can help everyone get the support they need to recover as they continue along the journey to get well.”
It was in that spirit that legendary NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin invoked biblical verse James 5:16 as he encouraged his NFL brethren, and men in general, to open up to each other about life’s challenges.
“The Bible says, ‘Confess thy faults one to another, pray ye one for the other and in this we shall find healing.’ What it means by that is when we talk, we find out that we all go through some of the same issues. And you may be able to talk to someone that has been in the issue that you’re in and he’s come out of it. And he can tell you how to come out of it. But we don’t talk. But we shut up, we be quiet and we don’t say a word and we implode. We put ourselves in isolation and that’s the worst thing you can do. When you think about it, it’s how they punish the most hardened criminals in the world. They don’t beat them, they don’t whoop them. They lock them away in isolation, they cut off their ability to communicate with others and it runs them crazy. They have reason to be locked away. We do not. Let’s make sure that we’re not locking ourselves away. Let’s lean on one another” said Irvin.
The speech is a positive sign that negative attitudes and stigmas associated with mental health are lifting as acceptance and support for people who suffer from such conditions becomes more common. There is still much catching up to do, particularly in minority communities where prevalent mental health issues are rarely discussed — especially by men.
Hopefully, the heartfelt words of Michael Irvin will resonate with many of us.