Eric Hipple is well known to many as the former quarterback for the Detroit Lions, 1980-1989. Today, Eric offers powerful, personal messages about depression awareness and suicide prevention to audiences around the country as the University of Michigan Depression Center’s outreach coordinator. Here he shares his thoughts on how mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness for NFL players.
As a professional football player, mental toughness is part of the job. Playing through pain and injury, getting back up when you get knocked down, and grinning and bearing it while pushing through training camp and practice; these are all givens if you want to be an NFL player. While we understand this, it can still take a toll on the psyche. The trouble is, mental toughness does not always protect our mental health. The definition of mental health is defined as a state of well-being, where one can handle normal stresses, be productive and fruitful, and is also part of community. This state of well-being is much more than the old definition of an absence of illness. Much like physical fitness for physical health, we must practice mental fitness to maintain our mental health. Honoring our values, staying connected to support systems (family, friends, community), communication, problem-solving skills, and purpose are all tools of mental fitness. Being mentally fit does not mean things won’t go wrong; things often do, life can be like that. Whether it is loss, pain, transition, illness (including brain illness) or even TBI (traumatic brain illness), the more mentally fit we are, the better the outcomes. We practiced hard to make it in the NFL, so we should enjoy that accomplishment and have the sense of well-being we deserve. Find out more about your own mental health. You are not alone, and support is close by.
For more information on mental health and fitness and access to the University of Michigan’s Depression Center resources, visit the Total Wellness Featured Health Topic page.