Brandon Brooks reveals Anxiety condition: Why NFL needs to help break mental illness stigma


Brandon Brooks has been a key cog of the Eagles Offensive Line machine this season, but missing two of his last three games with a previously unknown illness had left many unanswered questions. The former Texan answered those today, by addressing the media after practice and revealing that he’s dealing with a form of Anxiety.

“I’m not ashamed, I’m not embarrassed. It’s life. I’ll get through this.” The quote that defined a short conversation with the Philadelphia media after Wednesday’s practice. Naturally, the announcement is going to cause some mixed reactions..but there should only be one, one of support.

Anxiety can be a hugely debilitating illness, as can any mental problem..and the issue is that in today’s society, mental illnesses are met with such a stigma that they’re often hard to talk about. Sufferers can often feel isolated..and in a locker room of 52 other men that pride themselves on being tough, it isn’t the easiest thing to bring into conversation.

Brooks is 6’5 and weighs 335 pounds. For someone of his size to admit to the media that he’s dealing with a mental illness is an incredibly admirable thing to do..purely because the illness itself is so misunderstood by society. It’s extremely difficult for ANYONE dealing with a mental illness to talk about their problems, for fear of being judged. Inside an NFL locker room, there’s no real way of knowing what the reaction would be..only hoping that it’s one of understanding.

Those who haven’t experienced a mental illness or even so much as known somebody who has had to fight that battle often have trouble gauging what anxiety truly entails..and there’s no definite answer. Like Depression, it’s purely individual..and as Brooks pointed out today, his illness stems from “trying to be perfect”.

The biggest misconception is that admitting a battle is raging inside of a person is a sign of weakness. It’s the opposite. Because when you’re inside your own head, it’s just you fighting that battle. The outside noise, the friends, the social media comments, the media pressure..are all still existent and overwhelming at the easiest of times.

There is no easy cure for anxiety, it’s not a common cold or a bad stomach that can be cured with a few pills. It’s something that many have to live and deal with on a day-to-day basis, and something Brandon Brooks has to push through weekly to play at his best. While he’s taken the right steps and acknowledged that talking to someone is absolutely something that will help his progress, it’s also shed light on a much larger issue.

The NFL is one of the biggest companies in the world. There are a total of 1,696 players spread across the 32 teams..and that’s just on a 53-man roster. It’s estimated that one in four people will be affected by a mental illness at some stage during their life.

We live in a world that is quick to thwart dreams, extinguish hope and tear down walls put up by individuals due to our own insecurities. As opposed to trying to understand what a person is going through, people often mock. Social media has built such a terrifying barrier that it makes it almost too easy to send an abusive or insulting tweet at someone..and athletes are no exception. Just look at Nelson Agholor..

Because of this, sufferers of mental conditions are often afraid to talk about their problems..even to their friends or families. The feeling of isolation only grows as avenues you once thought were a means of release begin to close. We can’t cure mental illnesses overnight..and no two cases are the same. But we can at least educate the millions of people who watch the NFL on a weekly basis so that they are aware of both the devastating effects an illness can have on a sufferer..and how they can at least support them in that fight.

The fact is that through the power of anonymity, people are finding it all too easy to attack players on social media through a lack of understanding. The NFL does such fantastic work in the community, helping feed families, supporting the military and aiding the fight against Cancer. It’s time the league turned their eyes to a controversial topic that nobody likes to talk about, which is battling the likes of Anxiety or Depression.

Brandon Brooks made an incredibly inspirational move today, in revealing the extent of his condition, means of recovery and how long he’s suffered to the local media. Something that many find very difficult to tell even their closest peers. Perhaps the actions of Brandon Brooks will inspire others to do the same, to give them a sense of hope. That if an Offensive Lineman, one of the toughest guys on the roster can fight through such a weakening illness, then so can I.

It’s that kind of reaction that the NFL need to aim for. The only way that dealing with these kind of problems is going to get any easier, is if more people aware of just how serious they are. Mental illnesses are not a joke, mocking someone’s condition has never been funny and never will be..and marginalizing somebody who perhaps suffers with Anxiety is beyond backward.

The NFL is a league that symbolizes the future of professional sports. So I think it’s time that they take a stand and tackle such a tricky topic. It won’t cure or solve anything immediately, but for that one person who feels like he has nothing left to live for..seeing his favorite athlete admit he’s fighting a similar battle, might just be the light at the end of an incredibly dark tunnel. It’s time to break the stigma on mental illness.


Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

If you are suffering with any kind of mental condition and want somebody to talk to, there are plenty of avenues that allow you to do so, here are just a few: