"Ask for help. Stop trying to deal with these serious matters alone. You're not alone."
Former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith, widely regarded as one of the toughest pound-for-pound players to ever lace 'em up, is doing his part to raise awareness for mental health issues and encouraging those who are experiencing struggles to seek help, without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
Smith released a piece through NFL.com today titled, "My Personal Battle With Depression," in which he details his own struggles and offers advice to those who are going through similar situations. Despite making five Pro Bowls and earning two first-team All-Pro nods during his career, Smith questions whether he ever truly enjoyed those moments or felt "genuine delight" in his accomplishments.
"In 2013, my final year in Carolina, I hit a point where I was so overwhelmed that I wasn't sure what to do or how to handle my emotions. Small things in my daily life impacted me in a big way, and I was a cynic of everything and everyone. It was at that point I decided -- with hesitancy -- to try counseling for non-football related matters for the first time in my life. So I went; rather, I had my counselor meet me at my home because I feared someone would see me walking into a session in a public place. I really had a hard time realizing just how much I wasn't able to handle emotionally. My responses or lack of responses in those early sessions were an indication of what was going on inside."
Smith goes on to reveal how he feels in a more "open and enlightened state" these days and can better assess the question that has plagued him, and so may others, for so long: "What's wrong with me?"
He writes, "And now I have an answer: There's nothing wrong with me, nor is there with anyone else who suffers from depression and other mental health disorders. All human beings have strengths and weaknesses, physical and mental. You're defined by how you play the hand you're dealt in life. I've spent the last year grieving, in a sense, the fact that I no longer am a football player -- the one thing I have been my entire life. Re-identifying myself has been quite the process and learning to be OK with that even more so."
In closing, Smith relays some words of advice to anyone suffering from mental health issues, and specifically athletes who can relate, "Ask for help. Stop trying to deal with these serious matters alone. You're not alone. Believe me."
You can read his full piece, "My Personal Battle With Depression" here.