The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday the formation of Hall of Fame Behavioral Health, a program created to find comprehensive solutions through a network of mental and behavioral health services designed specifically for current and former athletes and their families.
Hall of Fame Behavioral Health's stated mission is "to make mental health and the treatment of issues surrounding athletes and those who care for them destigmatized, accessible and widespread."
Among the ambassadors supporting the program are Hall of Fame president/CEO David Baker, Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott, Brian Dawkins, Steve Atwater, Andre Reed and Tim Brown, and active players Adrian Peterson and Calais Campbell.
"We have to end the stigma surrounding mental health, and that includes athletes," Dawkins said in a statement. "It's OK to ask for help and to reach out if you are having issues. It's OK not to be OK. But it's not OK to stay that way -- because our silence is killing us and damaging our families."
Hall of Fame Behavioral Health will offer an easy-to-use concierge call center and crisis line to match treatment and counseling services with a vetted and accredited premier network of 12 service providers across the country, from Baltimore to Tucson. The providers are trained to deal with such issues as post-career transition, identity, addiction, performance anxiety, mindfulness and the culture of sports.
"The Pro Football Hall of Fame has always been about protecting the most important part of the game of football: the players," Baker said in a statement. "With Hall of Fame Behavioral Health, our mission is to make mental and behavioral health services that meet the Hall of Fame's standards of excellence easily accessible and available not only to Hall of Famers but to every player of this game, the people who support them and the kids dreaming about one day playing in the League. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is committed to ending the stigma that surrounds asking for help and protecting our family of athletes for generations to come."
Hall of Fame Behavioral Health is the latest health care-related initiative affiliated with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In early 2020, the Hall announced its official entry into health services with the creation of Hall of Fame Health.
"We are a forever brotherhood," Dawkins said of athletes, "and we must do a better job of looking out for one another. There are many options out there, and now you can add Hall of Fame Behavioral Health as a viable and reliable one."
The NFL and its teams have taken multiple measures to bring awareness to mental health struggles during Mental Health Awareness Month. On Tuesday, the league launched a series of videos that attempts to reach players, fans and the general public about prioritizing mental health and wellness.
The Indianapolis Colts also began a sweeping campaign called "Kicking the Stigma" designed to address the reluctance and shame that often accompany mental health issues.
During last week's Draft-A-Thon, prioritizing mental health was among the four pillars of pandemic recovery that the NFL raised money to support. It raised money for Mental Health America, a non-profit to support pandemic recovery in the hardest hit communities.