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Stay in the Game Forum on Mental Health / NBC SPORTS

Coalition aims to expand conversation around sports and mental health

By Trenni Kusnierek

One year ago this weekend, former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Minutes into his acceptance speech Dawkins talked about his battle with depression and suicidal ideations.

“I suffer from depression,” Dawkins said. “I went through it mightily my rookie year. I've suffered through suicidal thoughts. And I wasn't just suffering through suicidal thoughts, I was actually planning the way I would kill myself so my wife would get the money.”

It was a stunning revelation for the 16-year pro football player — and since that 22-minute speech, he hasn’t stopped talking about his experience.

“If I can have the average person understand that even THE Brian Dawkins goes through the exact same thing as you… we are actually the exact same when it comes to that,” Dawkins said. “There’s a guy I thought had everything he could want in life and he goes through the exact same thing, when he felt the same things I felt? Wow. That begins to floor people.”

On June 11, Dawkins was one of four elite athletes to attend and share their stories at the ‘Stay in the Game Network’ coalition on sport and mental health held at MLB Headquarters in New York.

The event focused on exploring sport’s role in promoting mental wellness and included representatives from the NFL, NBA, MLS, NHL, MLB, USA Swimming, World Boxing Council and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

The sessions were sponsored by Beyond Sport, a UK-based organization which focuses on promoting, supporting, and celebrating the use of sport to address social issues in communities around the world.

Nick Keller, the founder and president of Beyond Sport, said now is the perfect time to expand the conversation around mental health and sport.

“I think we are at a particular time in society where people can have these open conversations,” Keller said. “And that we’re recognizing that performance isn’t just about winning medals. We have to care about the human being that is winning the medals.”