Aaron Rodgers hopes more athletes will help break the stigma around mental health

The attitudes and opinions regarding mental-health issues are changing. Athletes and other high-profile persons can be at the forefront of that shift. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hopes that they will, if they choose to do so.

“Well, we should keep talking about it,” Rodgers told Kevin Clark of TheRinger.com. “Keep talking about ways that we individually deal with stress and deal with anxiety and deal with pressure and deal with depression or loneliness. I think that would really help. Because we, whether we like it or not, have a platform to influence people. And our words are often listened to more than the person who’s not in the public eye as much. So we have an opportunity — not an obligation, an opportunity — to maybe share some of our own ways of dealing with things and break some of the stigma around mental health.”

Opportunity is the right word. No one should be compelled to publicly delve into their mental-health struggles, if doing so would potentially make them worse. For some, talking openly and freely about the issues actually helps.

Rodgers praised Simone Biles for opting for transparency regarding her own struggles during the Olympics.

“I give Simone so much credit for her ability to speak the truth, her truth, and to answer tough questions, and to have the courage to say, ‘I’m scared’ and ‘I don’t feel like I should be out there,’” Rodgers told Clark. “She’s the greatest gymnast of all time. And mental health [awareness] is an issue that is continuing to break down the stigmas that don’t allow us to talk about it or only allow us to talk about it in a super negative, depressive, suicidal way. People of all ages and all professions are dealing with mental issues, especially during COVID. You’ve seen the suicide hotline [calls] going way up. We’ve seen so many different statistics around mental health. . . .

“It’s something we should be talking about and ways to help people get through it, whether it’s techniques or therapy or just conversations letting people know they’re not alone. And that’s what Simone did. I’m very, very proud of her. I’ve gotten to know her a little bit at times over the years. And I think what she did and then the way she handled herself, cheering for her teammates, was really special to watch in a tough situation for her. And I give her just a tremendous amount of respect.”

He’s right. Everything he said is right. It’s part of an important shift that must happen, so that people who need help won’t feel ashamed or different or lesser than others because of it. The rarest of individuals never experience mental and emotional challenges. Whether it’s family-related or professional or financial or simply an issue of brain chemistry, struggles inevitably arise for most people. They should not be internalized or ignored. They should be discussed, addressed, solved. And if not solved at least managed.

We all should embrace that approach, remembering that we share a common humanity that will benefit from supporting those who are dealing with such issues and encouraging anyone who encounters such challenges to not think twice about seeking help. At any given moment, such struggles can arrive for any of us, or for any of the people about whom we care. That reality alone should be enough to shatter whatever stigma lingers.