Former NFL Linebacker Keith O’Neil secretly struggled with depression and anxiety. He was eventually diagnosed with bipolar and urges kids not to suffer in silence.
1. Know How to Ask for Help
O’Neil: “I wish I would have known how to ask for help. I was going through something and didn’t know what it was, so I was very confused. I wish I would have been more open about my feelings and talked to my parents, my teachers or my coaches about it. But I held it all in.”
2. Don’t Think Everyone is Going Through Exactly What You’re Going Through
O’Neil: “I thought everyone dealt with what I was going through. And a lot of people do, but I just thought it was normal. And I also held it in because of the stigma. I didn’t know how people would react to it…especially the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t know how to talk about it.”
3. The Place to Start
O’Neil: “Just tell one. [Referencing the public awareness initiative JustTellOne.org] Tell one person. Or ask for help. Be open about it. Don’t be ashamed if you have an illness. Don’t hide it.”
4. The Most Important Thing Family and Friends Can Do
O’Neil: “Just listen. Listening is very key. You don’t always have to have the answers as a friend. Just [be] supportive and [be] a good ear.”
Keith O’Neil earned a Super Bowl ring in his second season with the Indianapolis Colts and has faced bipolar disorder symptoms since he was a kid, including anxiety, trouble sleeping and suicidal thoughts as young as 9 or 10. O’Neil now works to combat stigma by sharing his experiences publicly, and he wrote a book about his mental health journey titled Under My Helmet. He shared this advice at an Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition Public Forum.
Learn more about Keith O’Neil’s journey to bipolar disorder stability:
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