NFL Players Talk Openly to Help Destigmatize Mental Illness

Associated Press

Published 11/23/15

Arian Foster was in a bad place, drinking heavily to self-medicate and deal with the problems in his life.

The Houston Texans running back knew he needed help but was reluctant to seek it because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues. He overcame that fear, sought therapy and it changed his life.

“It just got to a point where I just threw my hands in the air and I was like: ‘This is going to kill me,'” Foster said. “So I went and got help and it was the best decision I ever made.”

Now that he’s embraced the benefits of counseling, Foster has joined the Jets’ Brandon Marshall’s PROJECT 375, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and disorders. Foster is the first of what Marshall hopes will become a group of athletes, entertainers and business leaders who will talk openly about the issue as members of what he calls the organization’s founders circle.

Marshall, a receiver for the New York Jets, was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2011 when he sought treatment after off-the-field issues threatened to derail his NFL career. He and his wife, Michi, formed the organization and dedicated themselves to helping others with mental illnesses.

Doing this gave Marshall purpose and looking back he’s so thankful he received his diagnosis and treatment when he did.

“I had a chance to lose my wife, possibly my career, and that would have been a lot, especially at the age of 27. I probably wouldn’t have been able to cope and deal with that,” Marshall said. “So I’m glad that we took the proper steps, did the work, and now we’ve went from patient to provider.”

Foster and Marshall sat down for a deeply personal chat to mark the running back’s partnership with PROJECT 375. Marshall asked the questions and Foster was open and shockingly candid.

Foster said he grew up in a home with domestic violence where there wasn’t enough food at times. When he made it to the NFL, he found whole new set of problems related to money and whom to trust.

“It’s just so much pressure and nobody tells you how to deal with it,” Foster said.

He didn’t see counseling as an option.