Authentic People – Brian Dawkins

By Susie Adams

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This is the first in a series where we highlight moments of true authenticity.  Those times when someone takes a risk, bares their soul and gets real with us.  The moments won’t be the same, but they’ll all be candid, inspirational and inspiration for conversation and action.

On Saturday night, The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted its most recent class.  The inductions speeches are always full of energy and emotion.  But this year one inductee laid his pain on the stage in hopes of giving hope to others.

Former Philadelphia and Denver free safety, Brian Dawkins, did all of the things you would expect him to do. He thanked his coaches.  He thanked his family. He talked about his faith. He talked about his career and his passion for the game.

But what made me (and lots of others across the country) lean in was Dawkins’ candor about his pain. Not physical pain, but the pain of depression. There have been multiple stories about Dawkins’ message of help and hope.

“I suffer from depression. I went through it mightily my rookie year. I’ve suffered through suicidal thoughts. And I wasn’t just suffering through suicidal thoughts, I was actually planning the way I would kill myself so my wife would get the money.” (Forbes)

Reaching Out & the Support of Others

He talked not just about his faith, but the professional help he got to manage through his issues and the people who got him there.

He thanked the coach who pushed him to get help, “when I was in those depressive states, when I was thinking about suicide, it was because of your hand, your guidance, and your believing in me, helping me to go see somebody about the struggles that I was having that allowed me to be alive today.”

He thanked his wife, Connie, for multiple things including, “Because of Connie. Because of you. Because of you urging me to go see a psychologist to go talk about my problems. And be more open with you about my problems so we could talk things out.”

He Had Multiple Messages for Those in a Dark Place

“Don’t settle in this life. Don’t settle. Don’t allow yourself to settle. Push through the pain. On the other side of that pain is something special for you to go in the next level of what God has for you.”

“I have grown leaps and bounds because of the things that I’ve gone through, and that’s one of those things I went through. When I say, went through, that means I came on the other side of it. So, for those who are going through it right now, there’s hope. You do have hope. There is something on the other side of this. Don’t get caught up where you are. Don’t stay where you are. Keep moving. Keep pushing through.”

Finally, he acknowledged that he expects to feel challenge again, but is prepared, “I think and I believe that there’s going to be some painful things to come. It is. I know it is. But I’m prepared for the pain. I’m prepared to push through it.”

Raw and Powerful

Dawkins’ speech was raw. It was powerful. It was draining. In fact, there were multiple pictures on social media of Dawkins immediately after his remarks, totally spent.

But his remarks are already making a difference, former Carolina Panther player, Steve Smith, published a deeply personal piece four days later detailing his own struggles with depression. And Coach Ron Rivera, when told about Smith’s story, acknowledged that coaches don’t know enough about mental illness, the signs and how to help. Coaches are not alone.

In the wake of high-profile suicides like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, it is significant that the most invincible of athletes, pro football players, are speaking out about their own struggles. More importantly, they are saying loudly that they got help. That is a message for everyone.

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