Steve Smith, Brian Dawkins Open Up on Mental Health Issues

Kirby Lee- USA Today Sports

Athletes lead a complex life. To many, they are role models for kids across the globe, with some becoming larger than life itself. If you grew up playing sports, you surely dreamed of a day where you became a professional athlete and made millions while doing what you loved to do best: Play sports.

To us as fans, that’s the dream. These players are paid handsomely to play a simple yet demanding game, and we these guys/girls on pedestals because of it. Due to their status in society, we expect them to cherish everything and act in a certain manner, sometimes forgetting they have the same genetic make-up as you and I. As long as they make that play, they have no reason to be upset.

Brian Dawkins is widely known and accepted by both fans and fellow players as one of the greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all-time, as he was one of the hardest-hitting players during his time. Yet nothing on the field could quite deliver the blow like the issues and symptoms of depression Dawkins dealt with during his career. Dawkins took time out of his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech to talk about his own issues he went, and continues, to go through:

“I wasn’t just suffering through suicidal thoughts, I was actually planning the way that I would kill myself… But what that pain did for me, it increased my faith exponentially”- Dawkins during his speech.

On perhaps Dawkins’ biggest night of his career, he stood in front of thousands in Canton, Ohio plus millions who would watch at home and took time to not only acknowledge he suffered from suicidal thoughts, but offered words of encouragement to any pair of ears that were listening.

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A few days later, former Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. took to NFL.com to produce a piece titled “My personal battle with depression,” which you can find here. In the self-written article, Smith alludes to Dawkins and his speech just a few days prior to him writing his piece. Smith also shed light on his career where he battled with depression, sharing moments where even in victory, his mental health made him feel defeated.

To share these stories are not to simply draw attention to themselves, but rather spread awareness. Amazingly enough, Dawkins and Smith are not the only athletes to open up about their struggles. The likes of Serena Williams and Michael Phelps merely headline a long list of athletes to openly come out about their depression.

We will never know how many people have been helped by the words Brian Dawkins spoke, or the words written by Steve Smith Sr. However, the door being opened by these two players and so many others play a crucial role in our society. Gone are the days where problems like these carry a stigma with athletes and are seen as negative. Now, those who look up to these players for their talents, can also connect with them on a human level too.

Superheroes don’t always wear capes, they can wear helmets too.