HEADSTRONG

Headstrong: Receiving mental health 'is not a luxury, it is a necessity'

Headstrong: Receiving mental health 'is not a luxury, it is a necessity'

Mental health has long had a stigma, but with further awareness of the importance of maintaining positive mental health, that is changing.

“Going to therapy is not a luxury, it is a necessity,” licensed clinical social worker Dr. Gail Grabczynski said. “Just as you go and get evaluated for physical ailments, you should and get evaluated for mental health ailments.”

Grabczynski was the Bears lead mental health clinician from 2005-2016. She also worked closely with former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Marshall was able to not only get his life in order, but also speak freely about his mental health. He refused to do his sessions in an office and instead did them where everyone could see him. He was trying to end the stigma of mental health and athletes by showing everyone that he was not afraid to talk about it in a public setting.

“We need to continue to move this forward,” Grabczynski said. “Not only do we see it here domestically. We see it internationally that there is a push and a movement forward regarding mental health and the need for people to understand the importance of it.”

See more from Grabczynski in the interview above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”

Headstrong: Brandon Marshall's neon green shoes for mental health awareness

Headstrong: Brandon Marshall's neon green shoes for mental health awareness

When Brandon Marshall signed the largest contract for a wide receiver in Bears history, he donated $1 million to mental health causes.

He continued to support and raise awareness about mental health by wearing lime green shoes to a game against the Giants in 2013 knowing that he could get fined for it.

“I always say that football is not my purpose, it’s my platform,” Marshall said in the days leading up to that Giants game.

Marshall’s lime green shoes got some airtime during Mental Health Awareness Week. He ended up getting fined $10,500 by the NFL.

“When he knows he’s right about something he will advocate for it and push through it,” said Dr. Gail Grabczynski, lead mental health clinician for the Bears from 2005 to 2016. “That’s why he wore the neon green cleats and understood there was going to be maybe some backlash, but he was very confident that it was doing the right thing.”

Marshall’s stand drew more attention to the cause he was trying to raise awareness for.

“(Mental health) is kind of hidden and a lot of people wouldn’t like to share those things,” said Matt Forte, a teammate of Marshall’s for four years including in 2013. “He wanted to bring some attention to it. The fact that the NFL wanted to fine him, I thought it was kind of dumb because that’s what the whole NFL’s platform is for. To bring things that light needs to be shed on so that positive change can happen. That’s the only thing he was trying to do.”

See more from Marshall’s story in the video above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”

Headstrong: Lance Briggs discusses concussions in pro football: 'It’s a part of all of our lives'

Headstrong: Lance Briggs discusses concussions in pro football: 'It’s a part of all of our lives'

When Lance Briggs entered the NFL, rookies weren’t thinking much about concussions, head trauma and the overall health of their brains.

The first priority was getting your career and life together after being a broke college kid simply trying to make ends meet.

“There’s a lot of mental challenges for every player,” Briggs said. “When you get drafted you’re a broke college kid so you’re not necessarily thinking about ‘How my brain going to be once I start playing this game?’ You’re going from trying to make ends meet and making sure that your rent is paid on time and your phone bill is paid and making sure you’re paying your part of the utilities. Now you’re playing football and you’re able to get your own place.”

Briggs played 12 years for the Bears and was a seven-time Pro Bowler. He said mental toughness was “one of the key ingredients to surviving in football.”

As the years went on and he started to see more examples of concussions, he started to think more about the risks.

“You don’t think about that until you’re in the back end (of your career) or if you’re a guy who’s taken off the field a lot for concussions,” Briggs said. “You start seeing guys left and right and you think about the position that you play and you think about all the contact that you’ve had and the role that you play in the head game.”

No matter how tough players were in their careers, Briggs admitted to seeing it get to anyone.

“It’s a lot of physical wear and tear on your brain,” he said. “As we’ve seen in the past there have been some that have taken their own lives and there are a lot of men who have struggled.

“Whether you recognize it or you don’t recognize it, it’s a part of all of our lives.”

Watch more from Briggs in the video above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”