A reflection on Brian Dawkins’ NFL Hall of Fame induction speech.

By Susan Resko, President of The Josselyn Center

Were it not for my sports-fan husband growing up in Canton, Ohio, and his fond memories of this first weekend in August at The Pro Football Hall of Fame, I would surely have missed the inspirational acceptance speech by 2018 inductee, Brian Dawkins.  Dawkins spoke fervidly about his battle with depression, and how he planned his suicide during his rookie year so his wife would “get the money.”  He talked about how the intense pain he experienced not only increased his faith, but made him so much stronger coming out the other side.  He encouraged those going through pain right now that there is hope on the other side.  He urged the cheering audience to “keep moving, keep pushing through.”

So, thank you Brian Dawkins.  You bravely shared that even though tough guys can feel pain; even pro football hall-of-famers are susceptible to depression.  All those fans that grew up wanting to emulate you just might have the courage to reach out for help if they need it.  Brian Dawkins just added one new fan to his fan club – me.  We no longer have to keep the darkness of depression in the closet; by letting it out, we also step into the light and out of the pain.

Brian, you gave us reason for hope.  By sharing your story, you did not become the poster boy for depression, but the role model of recovery, the hero of hope.  This four-time All Pro safety just made the world a lot safer, well beyond the gridiron.  I encourage you to watch his intensely passionate, 22-minute speech; the good part starts at about 3:45.  Also watch the crowd’s reaction.  There were no awkward silences, nor were there any uncomfortable glances from his family members and teammates.  There were only tears of pride and joy, smiles and a cheering, admiring, crowd.

Perhaps, the stigma of mental illness just might be losing its vice-like grip on our collective psyches.  It’s thanks to Brian Dawkins, William Styron, Patrick Kennedy and the countless other people who risked their reputation by talking openly about their struggles.

For all those who suffer from any form of mental illness, let’s follow the lead of Brian Dawkins.  Seek treatment so that you can go on to lead a fulfilling life and help others.  Reach out to supportive friends and family for support.  You are not alone.

I am so grateful for all our community members who allow us to make it possible to provide affordable access to treatment.  It’s my privilege to be a small part of the solution, and to work with an amazing board and staff to be there…before the point of crisis.