To be honest - this is a week full of trash talking here at the Parent Alliance. Our staff on the eastern half of the state will not stop talking about the upcoming Super Bowl. As a statewide organization we are so excited for the Philadelphia Eagles (or at least some of us are). This upcoming Super Bowl is full of excitement, anticipation, and hopefully a lot of togetherness for families who are Eagles fans. Now that Pennsylvania is on the world stage we wanted to remind you that nobody is immune to mental health challenges - not even the biggest, most popular, and highest paid athletes in the world.
While Brandon Brooks retired from the Eagles in 2022 we are still so moved by his openness to discuss his own mental health struggles on such a large platform. It is people like him who show children, especially young boys, that asking for help isn't just okay - it's a sign of incredible strength.
54.2 million dollars. That is the size of the contract that Philadelphia Eagle Brandon Brooks signed in 2019 which made him the highest paid offensive guard in the entire NFL at the time. This groundbreaking contract showed how much the Eagles valued Brooks but also it triggered an anxiety attack for Brooks during a 2019 game against the Seahawks. He was one of the few NFL players who have openly spoke about having an anxiety condition and has become a face for mental health advocacy in professional sports. By speaking to news media outlets he used his platform to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health.
This anxiety attack was announced as an "illness" to fans during that game however, Brooks went to Twitter later that day to explain that it was in fact an anxiety attack that prevented him from continuing in the game. That was Brooks' third career game that he missed due to an anxiety attack. He was diagnosed during the 2016 season after missing two games that year. Nearly three years later he woke up the day of the game and could not stop throwing up and none of his usual pregame rituals were helping him. Brooks tried to push through but continued to throw up on the sidelines.
While he was no stranger to anxiety this was the first time his teammates got to witness how deeply it impacts him. “I wouldn't say I would know what he's going through, but from the looks of it, I felt so bad for Brandon, and I know how bad he wanted to be out there, Brandon is an important piece to this team. He's one of the guys I hang out with outside of the locker room, I text a lot, talk on the phone a lot, check on each other. I just want to be there for him,” said Eagles player Fletcher Cox.
It is essential that you surround yourself with supportive people who take your mental health seriously and want to do what they can to help. Cox was trying to talk to Brooks on the sidelines of the game and see if there was anything he could do. Ultimately Brooks went back into the locker room and was unable to return.
Brooks attributed his record-breaking contract extension as a massive trigger for his anxiety. This contract solidified that the Eagle's see a lot of value in him as a player and teammate but it also put a lot of pressure on him to be "worth it." He always put a lot of pressure on himself to be the best possible player and this work ethic was a huge reason he was so successful but it also exacted a huge toll.
We at PA Parent and Family Alliance loved seeing a sports star opening up about mental health to chip away at the stigma surrounding it. Brooks still has fans all around the country, and a large portion of them reside in the Greater Philadelphia area. These fans have someone to look to who has been very open about the fact that not only does he have an anxiety condition but he is not ashamed of it.
This is especially impactful in a professional football player because often football is associated with toxic masculinity and the idea that men should be tough and not express their emotions. Now young football fans have a role model who was one of the best and toughest offensive guards in the NFL and struggles with anxiety.
People around the nation reached out to Brooks about how groundbreaking this disclosure is. Other professional athletes, fans, and parents of young fans were delighted that this was being talked about on a national stage and nobody is pretending it does not exist or that his feelings aren't valid. “We're supposed to be modern gladiators, man. We're getting paid more than the rest of the public and we're playing what some people call just a game. We're not supposed to have any emotions. We're supposed to just play, do what we're told and things like that. At the end of the day, we're people, we're human beings, we go through the same things that everybody else goes through," said Brooks.
Brooks wants his fans to take away that; “When it comes to mental health issues, I think the biggest thing is to embrace it, accept it and understand why and really to attack it, It’s no different than pulling a hamstring. … It’s the same thing mentally. I want to make sure that people understand that it’s something one, you can attack and you can get better, and two, that by just hoping it gets better, that’s not necessarily the best strategy. It’s OK to seek help, it’s OK to get help, and it will get better.”
People like Brooks are so important. We are grateful that he used his platform to normalize talking about mental health. What he did on the field was great, but what he did off the field changed lives for the better. This blog writer happens to come from a family of huge Eagle's fans so I apologize to some of my coworkers but - go birds!!!!