NFL, teams have a crisis support system in place for players in need
BY DAVE SKRETTA Associated Press
Friday, December 07, 2012
12/07/12 at 5:47 AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Brady Quinn can't help but wonder whether he missed something in the final days of Jovan Belcher's life.
Could the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback have listened better to his teammate? Could he have noticed a change in the linebacker's temperament? Did Belcher utter something under his breath that may have let on that he was capable of killing his girlfriend and himself?
"When you ask someone how they're doing, do you really mean it?" Quinn wondered. "When you answer back, are you really telling the truth?"
The murder-suicide last Saturday raised similar questions among players and coaches across the NFL. In an era in which physical safety is of paramount importance, it's become clear that ensuring the emotional well-being of the men who play the game is just as essential.
"A lot of times people hide their issues, their problems. They don't talk to anyone until it's too late," Quinn said.
This past July, the NFL established an emergency hotline that operates 24 hours a day and connects players, staff and family members in crisis with mental-health professionals who are not affiliated with the league or its teams. The group, which provides a similar service to the Veteran's Administration, is required to keep its conversations confidential unless the individual calling indicates they may harm themselves or others.
Robert Gulliver, the NFL's chief human resources officer, said "absolutely, players and staff are taking advantage of the opportunity" provided by the hotline.
Gulliver couldn't say whether Belcher had called, citing its confidentiality policy, and could not provide any data that indicates how much it is being used. But Gulliver did say that what happened to Belcher may cause the NFL to consider more offerings in the future.
"Mental health continues to be, in general society, an area that often has a stigma attached to it," Gulliver said. "We're trying to change that culture and break down that stigma and show people that mental is part of total health."
Original Print Headline: Crisis support system in place