Deconstructing Stigma: Revealing Leads to Healing

January 4, 2024

The following story features Brandon, a NFL wide receiver, co-founder of PROJECT 375, and participant in our Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life mental health public awareness campaign. Told through the eyes of its participants, this campaign boldly challenges the misconceptions of what those with mental illness look like and is intended to spark conversation.

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As a Pro Bowl football player, Brandon is trained to be aggressive, to show anger, and to get pumped up. It’s what fans all over the world expect of the “gladiators of the gridiron.” But as a man, especially as an African-American man, Brandon felt pressure not to reveal his emotions off of the playing field.

“All of my emotions would be bottled up inside of me, and I didn’t know how to cope with the anger and the sadness that I felt, so I would do things that were destructive. My behavior nearly cost me my career and my family.”

Recognizing that if he didn’t seek help to control his emotions that he would lose the things he loved the most, Brandon decided to spend three months at McLean Hospital, where he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. While there, Brandon underwent dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which taught him coping skills that he continues to use today in his professional and personal lives.

Deconstructing Stigma participant Brandon

Brandon is one of many Deconstructing Stigma participants whose stories are on display at Boston’s Logan Airport

“It was a huge relief to finally be able to put a name to what I had—borderline personality disorder. It had a name, and therefore we could tackle it head on.”

Brandon credits DBT and the care he received when he was in the depths of despair with helping to save his life. Today, he is a star wide receiver for the New York Giants, has two beautiful children, and wakes up every morning knowing that he is making a difference in the lives of others. Through PROJECT 375, a foundation started by Brandon and his wife, Michi, they have supported mental health clinical and research programs and have become outspoken and recognizable mental health advocates.

“Football is my job, but being a mental health advocate and changing how mental illness is perceived and treated are my calling. We wear pink to raise awareness about breast cancer. I wear green to raise awareness about mental health. I wear green so others know I am like them, and they are like me.”

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