“Mental Block” in the Locker Room

Shawn Andrews, drafted 16th overall by the Phi...
Offensive lineman Shawn Andrews, now with the New York Giants

Shawn Andrews is someone whose name doesn’t ring a bell to you.  As an offensive lineman in the NFL, Andrews have to recognize different defensive schemes, who to block, and protect the quarterback from being sacked.  It’s a thankless job that requires mental focus and detail to attention along with being physical.

But, what if that “mental” focus is disrupted, clouded by doubt, sadness, and trouble?  You try to block it out, but it doesn’t go away.  It gets in the way of your job, life, and everything around you?

In 2008, Andrews was diagnosed with clinical depression.  Unlike a “sports hernia,” ankle injury, or a pulled hamstring, mental illness is looked at by fans and most athletes with disdain and ignorance.  “Suck it up,” “man up,” or “shake it off” continues to be the mantra in a locker room full of machismo and alpha males.  Rather than hide behind it, Andrews felt it was important to address it in a proper way and get help for it.

His former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, provided him the help, but the fan reaction, as USA Today columnist Tom Padilla wrote in his story, was sad and pathetic.  Now, with the New York Giants, Andrews feels positive and is not concerned whether people will accept his bout with depression or not.

“Just because somebody gives you money and fame doesn’t mean it gives you wisdom, common sense or maturity.”

-sports psychologist Dr. Ray Karesky, from website Elijah’s Hearth

The Oakland Raiders blamed former center Barrett Robbins for losing the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when he disappeared from his hotel room the night before the game and was found in a drunken stupor and having a schizophrenic episode.  The Raiders knew that Robbins was diagnosed with bipolar depression when they drafted him, but did nothing to help him or support him. Their lack of support cost him his career and nearly his life.

They tossed him out like garbage.

For the record, Tampa Bay outplayed Oakland in the Super Bowl.  Even if Robbins was starting at center, Tampa was a better team that night.

Former NFL player Dimitrius Underwood attempted suicide twice.

There are other athletes who have battled mental illness:  former NFL top draft choice Dimitrius Underwood, tennis star Justine Henin, and MLB pitcher Justin Duchscherer, to name a few.  The stigma of mental illness, along homosexuality and lesbianism, are forbidden in the locker rooms.  In the NFL, if you assault an individual, get busted for DUI or drugs, there is no backlash, unless if it’s the media who point it out.  If it’s mental illness, everyone’s an expert and skepticism is abound.  He must be using that (depression) as an excuse.

Within the past few years, several athletes have come out and began to talk about their battle with depression, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.  They are not making excuses for their depression.  They are asking for help to “right the ship” and get back to normal.  The ultimate shame is when teams deny that help or offer full support to one of their employees (athletes).

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