Charles Haley

49ers great Charles Haley tackles mental illness in HEADSTRONG

49ers great Charles Haley tackles mental illness in HEADSTRONG

Charles Haley is a five-time Super Bowl winner. He's a Hall of Famer and two-time All-Pro. He also is bipolar. 

Haley, who played eight seasons with the 49ers and has 100.5 career sacks, is a part of NBC Sports' documentary "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports." 

"I have a mental illness," Haley says in the documentary. "I'm bipolar. I am bipolar. Every day, I have to tell myself that I'm bipolar. And I have to tell myself, 'OK, you have to look at people in the mouth and listen,' because a lot of times when I was in that manic or depressed state, I only heard bits and pieces of what you said, and most of it was negative." 

For years, Haley didn't understand his mental illness. He didn't even know he had a mental illness. The former 49ers and Cowboys great had an uncontrollable rage that hurt his marriage, his first 49ers tenure and much more. 

But now, Haley is open about his mental illness and is tackling it head on. 

"Today, because I take my medicine, I am able to process information and make a decision before I act," Haley said. "I never had that. I would attack you before you would even open your mouth." 

Haley says "silence is a killer" and pushes for communication and today's players in the NFL to seek help. His battle with bipolar disease and openness with mental illness will be discussed during Monday night's edition of 49ers Pregame Live as well as 49ers Postgame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area before and after San Francisco plays the Seattle Seahawks on "Monday Night Football." 

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will be playing all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.

How Charles Haley felt about Terrell Owens skipping Hall of Fame induction

How Charles Haley felt about Terrell Owens skipping Hall of Fame induction

Charles Haley was a key member of five Super Bowl championship teams with the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.

Elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, Haley spoke this week on KNBR about Terrell Owens’ decision to skip the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, to instead celebrate this month at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“My thought was there should’ve been more people reaching out to him instead of criticizing him because you don’t know what’s going on in this young man’s mind,” Haley said. “I feel like the world’s been against me most of my life, so I know the battles I have to fight just to maintain that people do care about me. I never judge another man.”

Haley and Owens both attended Dwight Clark’s memorial service at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, just prior to induction weekend at the Hall of Fame. They were teammates with the 49ers during the 1998 postseason and all of the ’99 season.

“I saw T.O. at Dwight Clark’s funeral, and I talked him and told him, ‘Hey, man, I don’t like what you’re doing to the Hall, but I’ll respect you. And when you come back to the Hall, I’ll be the first guy to hug you because we’re family. They can’t take it back. We’re family now,’ ” Haley said.

Owens got elected into the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility. Haley did not get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until his 11th year of eligibility. Haley’s wait can probably be traced to his actions off the field and his behavior in the locker room.

Haley does not hold any bitterness for his long wait. He said he used the induction ceremony to reward those closest to him, and he goes back to Canton annually to help him repair relationships and create new ones.

“I’ve been back every year, and I plan on going back every year,” Haley said. “Hey, it took what it took for me to get there. I’m telling you, I was so happy because at that point, my mom, who went to every game who drove, cried for me; all the coaches; all the players I played with; that was an opportunity to tell them, ‘Thank you.’

“It took all those people, the bad and the good, to make me the man I am. I wanted to give them their respect by letting them know how much I cared.”

Haley was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002, three years after his NFL career ended. He is now a mental health advocate.

“By being in the Hall of Fame now, I get the chance to walk up to guys and say I regret some of the things I’ve done to hurt you,” Haley said. “That’s one of the biggest things in my life that I love about where I’m at now, I’m willing to go out of my way to let guys know my regrets of my actions.”