Recently the NFL announced they are adding psychologists to each staff. As a Coach’s Wife this is exciting news. I believe this has the ability to influence football at every level. According to their recent statements they hope to reduce the stigma attached to seeking help for mental health and create continuity of care. Additionally, Dr. Carr made the point that clinicians who enter sport environments with very little understanding of team culture stigmatize the role of the psychologist so training in Sports Psychology was important for this role.
Even for teams that already employ an on-site behavioral health-care provider, the NFL/NFLPA initiative represents a meaningful change, says Chris Carr, PhD, team performance psychologist and behavioral health clinician for one NFL team.
“It takes mental health out of the shadows and elevates the clinician as an important part of each organization’s success,” says Carr, who works as part of an integrative support team that includes sports medicine physicians, athletic trainers, dietitians, player engagement staff, and strength and conditioning specialists. In addition to providing comprehensive mental health assessments, Carr also offers treatment and referrals to specialized providers—such as a marriage and family therapist—when needed. Through presentations, he teaches team members skills such as goal setting, managing pre-performance anxiety and refocusing in the face of distractions. Carr also provides support and education to coaches and other team personnel and conducts mandated educational sessions on the hallmarks of anxiety, depression and substance misuse, as well as how to seek help.
Why I Love This
First, the NFL taking care of their own is important. However, this addition has come together is great and I applaud the investment.
Healthy NFL players have the potential to influence society. Generation Z is the loneliest generation and they are the most plugged in as well. They are the most likely to see news first on YouTube, Twitter, and SnapChat because they interact there rather than with the person next to them.
Studies show that there is a direct link between screen time and mental health and the less time our teens spend plugged in the better. It’s going to take a village to break the addiction of social media. And it begins with influencers speaking out and telling the truth in spaces where Gen Z will hear things.
When they understand the connections for themselves they are then able to speak factually and intelligently on the subject.
Leadership Starts at the Top
We can point our student-athletes toward positive influencers, but they will choose who they follow regardless of our encouragement. The larger the pool of players with platforms focused around community service efforts, respecting women, healthy marriages and families, entrepreneurship, healthy living, and continuing education the better.
Each athlete who is well-spoken, shows how much they care for their family and community and asks for help when they need support with their mental health teaches everyone around them that success is not dependent on sensationalism.
The more NFL players and coaches that seek help for struggling marriages rather than giving up, the more examples we all have to look to when we feel like throwing in the towel.
While there are certainly other industries that provide access to mental health care, I believe there are opportunities for many more industries to consider adding professionals to their staff or at least ensuring affordable co-pays with health insurance options.
Burnout isn’t going away anytime soon, and we could all use access to stress-relieving outlets in my opinion!