By Dwight Hollier, LPC, NCC
May is an important month in the lives of our young NFL Brothers who will be starting their
NFL experience following the draft and free agency. May is also Mental Health Awareness
Month. Amid the fanfare and excitement about the upcoming football season, it’s a good time to
refresh an important ongoing conversation about mental health. Because when it comes down to
it, mental health is health — and our health is important to everything we do.
As current and former professional athletes, we’re familiar with what it’s like to perform at a
high level all the time: The pressure can be intense. Off the field — with our families, jobs and
other commitments — it can feel the same way. That’s normal, but we need to recognize that
mental health is a key pillar of our total well-being. When that pillar is out of line, it can be
difficult to be your best possible self.
As the Vice President of Wellness and Clinical Services for the NFL, I spend a lot of time
promoting the idea of total wellness among members of the NFL family. Over the past few years,
we’ve invested in programs and resources to help current and former players and their families
get where they want to be — emotionally, mentally and physically. But total wellness requires
individuals to invest in themselves, too. That’s why I encourage everyone in the NFL family to
take the first step toward total wellness by taking advantage of some of the resources offered by
Programs and Resources for the NFL Family:
For immediate crisis support, any member of the NFL family can call on the NFL Life Line, an
independent, confidential support hotline and online chat service. Current and former players,
coaches, team and league staff, and their family members can call (800) 506-0078 or chat online
to access immediate support and resources, 24/7, for a variety of issues. And because this service
is operated outside of the league, no information about people who use it is given to the NFL
unless they are at imminent risk and sharing that information might save a life.
The NFL’s Players Assistance and Counseling Services Program (Employee Assistance Program
–EAP), operated by Cigna, connects members of the NFL family with special programs
specifically designed for the NFL. EAP services, available for both current and former players,
include eight free confidential counseling sessions per issue — regardless of what the issue is or
when it might arise. These services are also available to anyone who lives in the household of an
eligible current or former NFL player. To receive 24/7 confidential guidance and referrals from
Cigna’s staff of personal advocates, just call (866) 421-8628.
The Bridges to Success Program, which connects players entering and leaving the league with
NFL Transition Coaches, is another valuable resource. Transition Coaches are highly trained
former players who serve as mentors to their peers who are transitioning into or out of the NFL,
offering support and guidance to help individuals move toward their total wellness goals. For
more information about the Transition Coach program, contact Keith Elias at (212) 450-2677.
It’s OK to Ask for Help:
We’re taking steps to work with teams to encourage and empower players and staff to seek
support if they or someone they know is dealing with personal and mental health issues. A
network of mental health professionals regularly consults with clubs, advising them on best
practices for enhancing total wellness among teams, staff and their families. In fact, we just
recently conducted a series of training sessions for key personnel from all clubs, designed to help
activate their internal networks to create a supportive environment in the aftermath of a difficult
emotional event for the team. Club personnel can coordinate specialized training tailored for
their clubs by emailing CrisisPlanning@NFLLifeLine.org.
Throughout my work, I am constantly stressing a key message: It’s OK to ask for help. In
everyone’s life, challenges will arise that cause us to grapple with our emotional well-being.
Those challenges are natural and inevitable. But it’s important for us to remember that when our
emotional and mental wellness starts to deteriorate, we have resources to help us get to where we
want to be.
About Dwight Hollier, LPC, NCC:
Dwight Hollier, a licensed professional counselor, is certified by the National Board for Certified
Counselors and has extensive experience working with adolescents, families and adults on a
variety of clinical and nonclinical issues. He is the Vice President of Wellness and Clinical
Services for the NFL, working in the Player Engagement Department overseeing the Life
platform. Dwight’s mission is to assist current and former NFL players in achieving total
wellness. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a dual degree
in psychology and speech communication. He went on to obtain a master’s degree in mental
health counseling from Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida, while playing linebacker
for the Miami Dolphins. He played in the NFL for nine years — eight with the Dolphins and one
with the Indianapolis Colts.
NFL Life Line Total Wellness Initiative: https://www.nflplayerengagement.com/total-wellness/
Independent, Confidential NFL Life Line (800) 506-0078: http://nfllifeline.org/